U.S. calls on Hungary and neighbors to shun Russian gas pipelines

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry attends a joint news conference with Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto in Budapest, Hungary, November 13, 2018. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry called on Hungary and its neighbors to reject Russian gas pipelines which Washington says are being used to cement Moscow’s grip on central and eastern Europe.

Energy diversification would be crucial for the region, as Russia has used energy as a weapon in the past, he said.

“Russia is using a pipeline project Nord stream 2 and a multi-line Turkish stream to try to solidify its control over the security and the stability of Central and eastern Europe,” Perry added during a visit to Budapest.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said Turkish stream, a pipeline under construction from Russia to Turkey, was good news for Hungary, as with annual capacity of 5 to 6 billion cubic meters one of it branches would bring gas to Hungary’s southern border via a new route.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is seeking to encourage the purchase of gas from the United States or other suppliers rather than increasing purchases from Russia.

“(The) United States strongly opposes these projects and we urge Hungary and its neighbors to join us in rejecting them.”

Hungary largely depends on Russia for its natural gas supplies, which now mostly come via a pipeline via Ukraine. Russia is also building a nuclear plant in Hungary.

The government would be willing to buy gas from Croatia, which is building a liquefied natural gas terminal, and from Romania, Szijjarto said.

Szijjarto said that he had asked for U.S. help to support Hungary’s diversification. A pipeline connection is not yet capable of carrying imported gas from the Black Sea via Romania.

Reporting by Krisztina Than; editing by David Evans and Alexander Smith