Austria wants gas to be excluded from European sanctions against Russia | abroad

If the EU imposes sanctions on Russia for invading Ukraine, Russian gas supplies should not be part of that. This was stated by Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg in an interview with the newspaper the press. Nor does he want the new Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to fall under sanctions.

The impending Russian invasion of Ukraine has dominated the international political agenda for weeks. However, it is not clear if and how Russia would launch an attack, and the United States and the European Union also appear to disagree about what sanctions they should impose in the event of an incursion against Russia.

And tomorrow / Monday, the topic will be discussed again at the meeting of European foreign ministers in Brussels. So if it depends on Austria, which has traditionally pursued good relations with Russia, gas should be outside the scope of sanctions. “In Europe, we depend partly on Russia for our energy. If we still want heating and electricity, we won’t be able to change that in a jiffy,” Minister Schallenberg said on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg news agency learns that the United States is in talks with Qatar about the potential supply of LNG to Europe, should the Russian invasion of Ukraine lead to a gas shortage. There are fears that European sanctions may encourage Russian President Vladimir Putin to turn the gas tap further to Europe. Russian gas makes up more than 40 percent of European supplies.

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In any case, Russia can expect harsh economic and financial sanctions if it violates Ukraine’s territorial integrity, Schallenberg said. “In the event of an escalation, the response will be clear, unambiguous, and swift,” he adds. It is not clear what sanctions the EU intends to impose, but Schallenberg does not exclude the possibility of isolating Russia from the international payment system SWIFT.

The fact that Austrian oil and gas company OMV is co-investing in Nord Stream 2 may contribute to Schallenberg’s reluctance to include gas in the new European sanctions. There is also a major center for the distribution of Russian gas to Europe near Vienna.

Gas from Qatar

Meanwhile, representatives of the US government have held talks with Qatar about the possible supply of liquefied natural gas to Europe, should the Russian invasion of Ukraine lead to a gas shortage. Bloomberg News knows this based on informed sources. President Joe Biden plans to invite the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, to the White House this month.

In Europe, there are fears that potential sanctions against Russia could push President Vladimir Putin to cut off the gas tap from Europe even more. Russian gas makes up more than 40 percent of European supplies.

Qatar is one of the largest LNG and LNG producers in the world. Three-quarters of this goes to Asian countries, especially Japan and Korea. Now the emirate is responsible for only 5 percent of European gas supplies.

In this way, the United States hopes to allay European countries’ concerns about the effects on gas supplies due to sanctions against Russia and offer an alternative to Austria’s proposal. Washington wants Europe to reach an agreement on a package of sanctions.

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The US government has also discussed supplying Europe with natural gas with other countries, sources told Bloomberg.

Denton Watson

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