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UPDATE 1-German economy minister sceptical about Russia sanctions

Tue, 8th Sep 2020 08:14

(Adds details, context)

BERLIN, Sept 8 (Reuters) - German Economy Minister Peter
Altmaier has questioned whether imposing sanctions on countries
like Russia are effective, as a debate rages over whether to
suspend the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany over
the poisoning of a Kremlin critic.

Speaking on an ARD talk show, Altmaier condemned the
poisoning of Alexei Navalny as a "cowardly assassination attempt
on a Russian citizen in Russia" and said the circumstances must
be cleared up.

He did not rule out imposing sanctions at some point in the
future, but added he believed keeping open communication lines
can sometimes be more effective.

"We need to clarify what we are trying to achieve with our
sanctions. Is it just a matter of looking in the mirror or is it
something positive for human rights?" he said late on Monday
evening.

From his experience in politics, sanctions often lead to a
"hardening of politics," Altmaier added.

"I don't know of any case where a country like Russia, or a
similar country, has been moved by sanctions to change its
behaviour in the past."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is under mounting pressure
from members of her conservative party to suspend the Nord
Stream 2 pipeline, a huge project to double Russian gas exports
to Germany that is more than 90% complete and due to start
operating from early 2021.

On Monday, her spokesman said she did not rule out imposing
sanctions.

But the head of the German Eastern Business Association told
Deutschlandfunk radio on Tuesday it would be almost impossible
to halt the project from a legal perspective.

"Legally, I think that is hardly possible. All permits have
been granted, the contracts are watertight - not only in
Germany, but also in five countries plus under European
regulations," Michael Harms said.
(Reporting by Michelle Adair and Caroline Copley
Editing by Scot W. Stevenson, William Maclean)

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