BERLIN, Sept 8 (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel
and her economy minister on Tuesday played down the possibility
of halting the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany
as part of any sanctions imposed on Moscow due to the poisoning
of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
Germany is consulting European and NATO partners on how to
respond if Russia fails to help clear up what happened to
Navalny, being treated in a Berlin hospital for what Merkel has
said was a murder attempt with a Novichok nerve agent.
One big area of discussion is the future of Nord Stream 2
which will double the capacity of the existing Nord Stream 1
pipeline from Russia to Germany and is due to start operation
next year. It is more than 90% complete.
At a meeting of her conservative parliamentary group, Merkel
reiterated her call for an EU response to the attack on Navalny
but took a cautious line on the pipeline, said participants.
She told lawmakers she could hear that some people were
talking about Nord Stream 2 in the context of an EU response but
also said that opinion was divided. At the EU level many would
not explicitly make a connection between the Navalny case and
stopping the pipeline, she said, according to participants.
On Monday, her spokesman had said she did not rule out
Conservative parliamentary group leader Ralph Brinkhaus also
struck a cautious note on stopping the pipeline, said sources.
Economy Minister Peter Altmaier kept open the possibility of
future sanctions but said late on Monday that keeping lines of
communication open was often more effective as sanctions could
result in a hardening of politics.
"I don't know of any case where a country like Russia, or a
similar country, has been moved by sanctions to change its
The head of the German Eastern Business Association said it
would be almost impossible to halt the project from a legal
(Reporting by Michelle Adair, Caroline Copley, Andreas Rinke
Writing by Madeline Chambers
Editing by Scot W. Stevenson, William Maclean)