The US and Germany have failed to get closer in their opposing stances to Russia's controversial Nord Stream 2 gas export pipeline project across the Baltic Sea, despite efforts from US President Joe Biden’s administration to build diplomatic bridges with its European ally.
Following their meeting on the fringe of the G7 Foreign Ministers Summit in London on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas reiterated their unchanged views on the pipeline project.
The US continues to strongly oppose the Russian plan to lay a subsea gas pipeline in order to bring gas to Germany, seeing it as undermining European energy security, according to Blinken.
"We talked about Nord Stream 2 and exchanged the positions we were mutually familiar with," Germany’s news agency DPA quoted Maas as saying after the 40-minute conversation with Blinken. "There is no news."
The stance of both sides has not changed since their last meeting in March, when Blinken warned about new sanctions that the US was preparing against Nord Stream 2, it's contractors and its insurers.
Germany opposes what is sees as US interference, saying Nord Stream 2 is a commercially-oriented project.
Maas said the dispute with the US over the pipeline only constitutes a “small part” of bilateral relations. "Apart from this problem, I do not see any at the moment that I would even begin to describe as serious," he said.
Despite the discussions at home, the US has approved no new sanctions against the project, permitting Gazprom-owned operator Nord Stream 2 to almost finish laying a first, shorter segment of the pipeline in the Danish maritime sector.
Fortuna's segment almost complete
Russian pipelay barge Fortuna is carrying out the work and is now approaching the German-Danish maritime border, according to vessel traffic information web resources.
Fortuna has been due to cross the border to continue with the remaining 17-kilometre segment of the pipeline in German waters, however, permission has been temporary suspended pending a court hearing.
The suspension came after German environmental group Nabu — Nature & Biodiversity Conservation Union — filed a lawsuit with the Hamburg Administrative Court.
In the lawsuit, the group has protested against the German Federal Office of Navigation & Hydrography's refusal to withdraw the permit it granted to Nord Stream 2 in January, so that environmental concerns could be addressed.
According to Nabu, Nord Stream 2 will cross five protected areas in the Baltic Sea, despite there being no urgent need for an increased gas supply in Europe.
Akademik Chersky yet to go ahead
Meanwhile, another Russian pipelay vessel, Akademik Chersky, remains idle to the northeast of Вanish island in Bornholm, despite being technically approved by operator Nord Stream 2 for the pipelay work on the longer and still-unbuilt section of the pipeline.
Construction of these two unfinished segments, running to German waters, was halted in December 2019 when US sanctions against the project were coming into force.
Nord Stream 2 said on 27 April that after long but necessary preparations and upgrades, the Akademik Chersky is set to begin laying the pipe near Bornholm, where the construction was halted in December 2019.
According to media reports in Moscow, Russian authorities are mobilising additional vessels to follow the Akademik Chersky, as the government is fearful of possible attacks on the pipeline by unmanned vessels.