* EU Commissioner says putting pipeline talks on hold in
* Says EU does not have to fear energy bottlenecks
* Supports EU visa, banking sanctions but no economic
FRANKFURT, March 10 EU Energy Commissioner
Guenther Oettinger is to delay talks with Russia on the South
Stream gas pipeline project aimed at bringing Russian gas via
the Black Sea, he told a German newspaper on Monday, in response
to the crisis in Crimea.
"I won't accelerate talks about pipelines such as South
Stream for the time being, they will be delayed," Oettinger, a
German national, said in daily paper Die Welt.
Oettinger said that Europe was not facing a gas supply
problem as a diplomatic solution is sought to Russian troops
taking control of Crimea following the collapse of Ukraine's
government. Energy stocks are ample and the winter is ending,
taking urgency out of heating requirements.
Russia has started building South Stream, which would bypass
Ukraine, to bring up to 15 percent of Europe's annual gas demand
to the European Union via the Black Sea by 2018.
But the plan of state-controlled gas producer Gazprom
has been frequently put into doubt over legal
conflicts with the EU, which is seeking to wean itself off
over-reliance on Russia for gas supplies.
The EC has demanded that Russia aligns pipeline charges and
access to its pipelines with the EU's internal unbundling laws
and is also investigating Gazprom over allegations that it has
priced its gas unfairly.
Russia, in order to secure its customer base in Europe, has
already bypassed Ukraine through the North Stream pipeline under
the Baltic Sea, which has been operating since 2011.
Oettinger also said he supported visa and banking sanctions
against Russian decision-makers and wealthy individuals, but no
large-scale economic measures.
"It would be wrong to question the economic ties that have
been built over decades (with Russia)," he said. "They are
important for the economy and jobs in Europe and Russia."
(Reporting by Vera Eckert; Editing by Greg Mahlich)