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Germany, Austria reject US sanctions on Russia as meddling in European affairs

Germany and Austria have criticized the new anti-Russia sanctions approved by the US Senate, taking the unprecedented move to tacitly call the US legislation an instance of American interference in European affairs.

The anti-Russia sanctions specifically targeting its energy sector should not be “threatening German, Austrian, and other European enterprises,” said a joint statement by German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Austrian Federal Chancellor Christian Kern, published on Thursday.

They described the proposed sanctions in contravention of international law.

“We cannot accept threatening European companies that contribute to the development of the European energy supply [system] with extraterritorial sanctions that violate the international law,” the statement said.

It said that the new sanctions approved by the Senate against Russia did not pursue a political or humanitarian agenda and instead served the US’s economic interests.

“This issue is all about the sales of the US condensed gas [to Europe] and pressing the Russian energy supply companies from the European market. The actual goal is to provide jobs for the US gas and oil industry,” the statement read.

The sanctions were approved by the US Senate on Thursday by 98 to 2, but it still needs to pass the House of Representatives and be signed by US President Donald Trump to become law. Trump is believed to be skeptical of anti-Russia moves, and White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Thursday that the Trump administration was still reviewing the Senate legislation.

In reaction to the proposed sanctions, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that the West always found an excuse to place politico-economic pressure on Moscow in order to impose its will on Russians.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with journalists after his annual “Direct Line with Vladimir Putin broadcast live” by Russian TV channels and radio stations, at the Gostiny Dvor studio in Moscow, Russia, June 15, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

“If there were no situation with Crimea and other problems, they would have invented something else to contain Russia,” he said, referring to the Crimean Peninsula, which in the course of the Ukrainian conflict voted to become part of Russian territory.

Crimea declared independence from Western-allied Ukraine on March 17, 2014 and formally applied to become part of Russia following a referendum, in which 96.8 percent of participants voted in favor of the move. The US has not recognized that unification and has already imposed sanctions on Russia over the matter.

‘Europe’s business, not America’s’

Gabriel and Kern also expressed concern that the US was interfering in Europe’s internal affairs and imposing its will on its allies.

“Europe’s energy supply is a matter for Europe, and not the United States of America!” read the joint statement.

Washington’s imposition of its will on its allies undermined the principle of “open and fair market competition,” it said.

The sanctions bill has incorporated a series of sanctions — including the energy-specific ones — against Russia with bans against Iran over its missile program. Iran says its missile activities are a matter of defense and an internal issue.

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