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German Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries asked the European Commission to look into possible countermeasures against the United States, following tough sanctions against Russia that could potentially hit European companies.
"We consider this to be a violation of international law," Zypries told local newspapers over the weekend. "The Americans cannot punish German companies because they operate economically in another country. There are (partnerships) for natural gas and petroleum pipelines (in the region)," she said via Google translate.
Zypries further added that Germany doesn't want a trade war and has repeatedly, and on different levels, urged the Americans not to leave the line of common sanctions.
"Unfortunately, they did. That is why it is right for the EU Commission to take countermeasures now," she said. Europe is "ready to take countermeasures in the short term, even in other areas," Zypries added, without going into detail.
The White House announced last week that President Donald Trump will sign draft legislation that imposes stricter sanctions on Russia, with Moscow firing back by ordering the U.S. to cut hundreds of diplomatic staff and said it would seize two U.S. diplomatic properties in retaliation.
On Thursday last week, the U.S. Senate voted almost unanimously to slap new sanctions on Russia, forcing Trump to choose between a tough position on Moscow - effectively dashing his stated hopes for warmer ties with the country - or to veto the bill amid investigations into possible collusion between his campaign and Russia.
By signing the bill into law, Trump cannot ease the sanctions against Russia unless he seeks congressional approval.
The move has rattled German business leaders and politicians. The German economy minister told local newspapers that new sanctions could hurt German companies and add another layer of difficulty to Berlin's relationship with Washington.
"The U.S. has left the common line it had with Europe for sanctions against Russia," Zypries told ARD television last week, adding that by not coordinating with Europe on the matter, there was a risk that German companies would be harmed.
German business leaders also warned these sanctions could prevent German companies from working on energy pipeline projects that are important to the country's energy sector.