German SPD official defends pro-Nord Stream 2 policy

FRANKFURT, Jan 8 (Reuters) - The Nord Stream 2 pipeline to bring Russian gas to Germany should not be mixed up with political and human rights disputes with Moscow, a senior official from the Social Democratic Party (SPD) that leads Germany's coalition government told Reuters.

The pipeline was completed in September, but is awaiting approval from German and European Union regulators, and some politicians - in Germany and abroad - have said it should be blocked due to several policy disagreements with Russia.

"Nord Stream 2 is, so to say, nearly connected to the grid, with only the lack of legal permits hindering the final start of operations," the SPD's general secretary, Kevin Kuehnert, said in an interview.

"At some stage, there must be political and legal peace in such a discussion," he added.

Kuehnert said the project, led by Russia's Gazprom , should not be mixed up with responses to Russia's territorial controversies with Ukraine and human rights issues, where Berlin had clear positions and diplomatic strategies.

The SPD's support for the pipeline under the Baltic Sea, a geopolitical irritant to the United States and countries including Ukraine and Poland, contrasts with the position of its junior coalition partner the Greens, but mirrors the stance of former Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats' (CDU).

Merkel declared the pipeline a commercial project, a line carried on by SPD Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

In another jibe at the Greens over the EU's energy definitions - which have classed nuclear power and gas as climate-friendly - Kuehnert said trying to throw out Brussels' proposals was "utopian," given Germany's opposition to nuclear put it in a minority position. read more

The EU is also in favour of using gas as a bridging technology under certain conditions until renewables and clean hydrogen can replace it. read more Kuehnert said a majority of environmental groups accepted this reasoning.

Reporting by Andreas Rinke Writing by Vera Eckert Editing by Mark Potter

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