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Merkel: New Pipeline Impossible Without Clarity For Ukraine

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (left) and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko talk during a meeting in Berlin on April 10.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that a new natural-gas pipeline linking Russia with Germany cannot go ahead without clarity on Ukraine's role as a gas transit route.

"I made very clear that a Nord Stream 2 project is impossible without clarity on the future transit role of Ukraine," Merkel said at a news conference with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Berlin on April 10.

She said that "it is not just an economic issue but there are also political considerations."

Merkel had in the past called Nord Stream 2 a purely "economic project" with no need for political intervention.

Nord Stream 2, which is to run from Russia through the Baltic Sea to Germany -- the European Union's biggest economy -- would double the existing Nord Stream pipeline's annual capacity of 55 billion cubic meters.

But critics argue it will increase dependence on Russia and enrich its state-owned energy companies at a time when Moscow stands accused of endangering European security.

Merkel said she had told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call on April 9, "It cannot be that through Nord Stream 2, Ukraine has no further importance regarding the transit of gas."

She insisted that Ukraine relied heavily on income from transit fees.

In an interview with German business daily Handelsblatt on April 9, Poroshenko urged Berlin to abandon plans to build Nord Stream 2, saying it would enable an "economic and energy blockade" against Ukraine and blasting it as "political bribe money for loyalty to Russia."

He accused Russia of being an "extremely unreliable partner" as a gas supplier, citing state-owned energy firm Gazprom's refusal to pay Ukraine billions of dollars after shutting off supplies in the middle of winter.

Poland and the Baltics oppose Nord Stream 2, and U.S. officials have spoken out against it.

In Warsaw in January, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that "the United States opposes the Nord Stream 2 pipeline," adding, "We see it as undermining Europe's overall energy security and stability and providing Russia yet another tool to politicize energy as a political tool."

With reporting by Reuters and AFP
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