* Gabriel says unlikely Russia will stop delivering gas
* Says BASF, RWE deals with Russia "unproblematic"
BERLIN, March 28 German Economy Minister Sigmar
Gabriel said there was "no sensible alternative" to Russian
natural gas imports and it was unlikely Russia would stop
deliveries because of the crisis over Ukraine, a German daily
reported on Friday.
"Even in the darkest hours of the Cold War Russia respected
its contracts," the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung reported Gabriel,
who is also energy minister and vice chancellor, as telling an
Europe's biggest economy is heavily reliant on Russian gas,
which accounted for about a third of its gas imports last year,
BDEW figures show. Germany's top utilities E.ON and
RWE receive most of their gas from Russia's
state-controlled gas producer Gazprom.
Russia's seizure of the Crimea region and its threat to cut
off gas to Ukraine, a transit route to the rest of Europe, has
prompted European leaders to consider strategies to curb the
bloc's energy reliance on Russia.
Gabriel also said that two current business deals with
Russia by German companies BASF and RWE, which have
been of media interest since the Ukraine crisis broke, were
"company decisions" and "essentially unproblematic", according
to the newspaper.
RWE is to sell its oil and gas unit DEA to investors led by
Russia's second-richest man Mikhail Fridman. Senior German
politicians have criticised the deal, warning Germany's energy
dependence on Russia was already too high.
German gas and oil exploration company Wintershall, owned by
BASF, is due later this year to hand its European gas trading
and storage activities to Russian partner Gazprom under a swap
agreement that will give it more shareholdings in Siberian gas
The newspaper said Gabriel also told the forum that Europe's
now shelved plan to build the Nabucco pipeline from the Caspian
Sea to provide natural gas and make Europe less reliant on
Russia was not a serious option to ensure energy security given
that Iran would have been "at the end of the pipeline".
The project was shelved last year although EU officials say
it could still be built one day if more Caspian gas becomes
(Reporting By Sarah Marsh; Editing by Susan Fenton)