Germany lashed out at Washington over new sanctions against Russia that target the planned Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Europe.
The new penalties, approved by the US Senate on Thursday, include a paragraph that threatens to penalize European companies that push ahead with energy export programs with Russia. Those include the Nord Stream 2 pipeline which would pump Russian gas under the Baltic Sea directly to Germany.
"It is strange that in the sanctioning of Russia's behavior, with regards to the US elections for instance, that the European economy should become a target of American sanctions. That must not happen," said Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert.
He added that Merkel shared the concerns raised by Germany's Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern who charged in a joint statement Thursday that the measure brings a "completely new and entirely negative quality to European-US relations".
In a hard-hitting statement, the German and Austrian said they "cannot accept the threat of extra-territorial sanctions against European companies that participate in the expansion of European energy supplies", adding that this would "violate international law". They accused Washington of using the sanctions to squeeze Russian gas supplies out of Europe in favor of US energy exports.
"The aim is to secure jobs in gas and oil industries in the US," said Gabriel and Kern. "Political sanctions should not be mixed up with economic interests," they warned, stressing that "Europe's energy supply is Europe's business and not that of the United States". "We decide who delivers energy to us and how, according to rules of openness and economic competitiveness," said Gabriel and Kern.
The U.S. Senate voted nearly unanimously on Thursday for legislation to impose new sanctions on Russia and Iran. The U.S. Senate's decision to impose new sanctions on Iran is an "unquestionable" violation of a nuclear deal reached in 2015 between Tehran and six major powers including the United States, Iranian media quoted a senior Iranian official as saying. The Senate approved on Thursday the sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile program and other activities not related to the international nuclear agreement.
"The U.S. Senate's move is unquestionably in breach of both the spirit and the letter of the nuclear deal," Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was reported by media as saying on Friday.
"The Iranian committee tasked with monitoring the accord will certainly examine the congressional move and come up with a decent response."
The U.S. legislation still must pass the House of Representatives and be signed by President Donald Trump to become law.
Trump has in the past called the nuclear agreement between Tehran and the major powers "the worst deal ever negotiated". Under the deal, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in return for the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions.