Nord Stream 2 work halts ahead of US defense bill

An Allseas ship working on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in the Baltic Sea. Work has now been suspended ahead of potential US sanctions. (Reuters)
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Updated 21 December 2019

Nord Stream 2 work halts ahead of US defense bill

  • Nord Stream can deliver enough energy to supply 26 million households per year

WASHINGTON: Swiss-Dutch company Allseas said it had suspended its pipe-laying activities along the Nord Stream 2 Russia-to-Germany natural gas pipeline, in anticipation of US President Donald Trump’s signing of a new national defense policy bill on Friday.

The move throws into doubt the completion date of the $11 billion project, that Moscow had said would be ready in months, jeopardizing plans to quickly expand sales of natural gas to Europe via pipeline.

“In anticipation of the enactment of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Allseas has suspended its Nord Stream 2 pipelay activities,” the company said in a statement dated Dec. 21.

“Allseas will proceed, consistent with the legislation’s wind down provision and expect guidance comprising of the necessary regulatory, technical and environmental clarifications from the relevant US authority.”

The annual national defense policy bill, which Trump signed later on Friday, contains legislation imposing sanctions on companies laying pipe for the project that will double the pipeline’s capacity to Germany.

The bill calls on the administration to identify companies working on the project within 60 days to trigger the sanctions. That report will likely be completed faster than that, however, meaning that any such sanctions could be triggered earlier than expected, two US senior officials told Reuters.

Led by Russian state energy company Gazprom, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline would allow Moscow to bypass Ukraine and Poland to deliver gas under the Baltic Sea to Germany.

The Trump administration, like the Obama administration before it, opposes the project on the grounds it would strengthen Russian President Vladimir Putin’s economic and political grip over Europe. Russia has cut deliveries of the fuel to Ukraine and parts of Europe in winter during pricing disputes.

Washington says that Nord Stream 2 would also likely deprive Ukraine of billions of dollars in gas transit fees.

Germany says it needs the gas as it weans itself off coal and nuclear power.

The Trump administration has touted US liquefied natural gas as “freedom gas” that gives Europe an alternative to Russian supply.


Flydubai launches first scheduled Dubai-Tel Aviv flight

Updated 41 min 50 sec ago

Flydubai launches first scheduled Dubai-Tel Aviv flight

  • The Dubai carrier will fly the route twice daily
  • Israeli airlines El Al and Israir are both expected to launch their commercial services between the cities next month

DUBAI: Budget airline flydubai on Thursday launched direct flights to Tel Aviv, the first scheduled commercial service between the two cities, following the normalization of ties between the UAE and Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be on hand for the arrival of the inaugural flight after its nearly four-hour trip, his spokesman said.
“PM Netanyahu will attend this morning the welcoming ceremony for the first @flydubai commercial flight that will arrive at Ben-Gurion International Airport,” Ofir Gendelman said in a tweet.
“These are the fruits of peace Dear Emirati tourists, welcome to Israel!”
The United Arab Emirates in September signed a landmark US-brokered deal to formalize relations with Israel, the first such agreement by an Arab state in the Gulf.
With their economies hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, the UAE and Israel are hoping for rapid dividends from the normalization deal, including an influx of tourists as Dubai enters its winter high season.
“The start of scheduled flights will contribute to economic development and create further opportunities for investment,” flydubai CEO Ghaith Al-Ghaith said when the service was announced earlier this month.
The Dubai carrier will fly the route twice daily, and Israeli airlines El Al and Israir are both expected to launch their commercial services between the cities next month.
Etihad Airways, based in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi, has said it will begin flying to Tel Aviv in March 2021.
The UAE became only the third Arab country to normalize ties with Israel, following Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.
The two countries have already signed treaties on visa-free travel — although that is yet to come into force — along with accords on investment protection, science and technology.
Since the historic agreement, Bahrain and Sudan have followed suit and agreed to forge ties.
The agreements shattered a longstanding Arab consensus that there should be no normalization with Israel until it reaches a comprehensive peace deal with the Palestinians.
After the UAE deal was announced by President Donald Trump in August, El Al flew a delegation of US and Israeli officials — led by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner — to Abu Dhabi in a historic direct service between the two countries.
That was followed by an official visit by a UAE delegation to Tel Aviv as well as a string of charter flights carrying business groups.