November 28, 2018 / 1:31 PM / 20 days ago

UPDATE 2-Germany sticks to Nord Stream 2 pipeline despite Ukraine crisis

(Adds Merkel's planned meetings with Putin, Trump in Buenos Aires)

BERLIN, Nov 28 (Reuters) - Germany is still committed to the NordStream 2 pipeline, which will allow Russia to bypass Ukraine in transporting gas to Europe, despite escalating tension in the region, a government spokesman in Berlin said on Wednesday.

The United States and others have stepped up criticism of the project since Russia seized three Ukrainian ships near Crimea on Sunday. Critics say the pipeline will make Germany and Europe too dependent on Russia for its energy supplies.

"I have taken note of the criticism but nothing has changed in the basic view of the economic project which is what NordStream is," said German government spokesman Steffen Seibert.

He added that Germany still wanted to ensure Ukraine would remain a transit country for gas from Russia to Europe. Earlier, Ukraine's ambassador to Germany had said NordStream 2 should be put on hold.

Government officials later said that Chancellor Angela Merkel would discuss the latest tensions in Ukraine with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump in meetings at the margins of this week's G20 summit in Buenos Aires.

The United States wants its European allies to consider further sanctions against Russia, the U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations said on Wednesday.

Several senior European politicians on Tuesday also raised the possibility of new sanctions against Russia to punish it for capturing the Ukrainian vessels, an incident the West fears could ignite a wider conflict.

But a spokesman for the German foreign ministry said the debate about further sanctions was premature.

"It's a legal instrument that has consequences for those who are affected by the sanctions so that means you need to consider and discuss it carefully," said the spokesman. (Reporting by Madeline Chambers, Michelle Martin and Andreas Rinke; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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