Berlin (AFP)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel assured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday that her country would remain a gas transit territory to Europe after the completion of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline connecting Russia to Germany bypassing Ukraine.

"For us, Ukraine is and will remain a transit country even if Nord Stream 2 is completed," said the Chancellor who received the Ukrainian leader in Berlin.

Angela Merkel said she was aware that "concerns are great on the Ukrainian side".

"We take them seriously and will do everything in our power to make it very clear that Nord Stream 2 is not a substitute for promised transit deliveries," she added to reporters.

The Ukrainian president called the gas pipeline, whose construction is almost complete, "a potential threat to the security of Ukraine".

This gas pipeline connects Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea without passing through Ukraine, threatening to deprive this country of part of the revenue collected on transit but also of a means of pressure on Moscow.

Supported by Berlin, the project is widely criticized in Washington and in Eastern Europe.

US President Joe Biden, initially very hostile to the site like his predecessors, renounced sanctions at the end of May, preferring to strengthen cooperation with Germany.

Angela Merkel is going to Washington this week for a meeting with Joe Biden during which they will notably discuss the operational modalities of the gas pipeline.

For several weeks, Berlin and Washington have been leading discussions on this subject and on how to offer guarantees to Ukraine as to the maintenance of revenues collected on the transit of Russian gas through pipelines other than Nord Stream.

In December 2019, Ukraine and Russia had laboriously concluded a gas transit contract which runs until the end of 2024.

Berlin recently pleaded for the contract between the two countries to be extended.

According to the CEO of Nord Stream 2 AG, the 1,230-kilometer gas pipeline, delayed by the threat of US sanctions, will be completed "by the end of August," he told the German financial daily Handelsblatt.

© 2021 AFP