BERLIN, Sept 4 (Reuters) - An asset-swap deal between Russian energy group Gazprom and German chemicals group BASF should not be interpreted as a sign of easing tensions over the Ukraine crisis, a German Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Friday.
BASF said earlier on Friday that under the deal, which it expected to complete by the end of this year, its oil and gas production unit Wintershall would get more stakes in Siberian gas fields, while Gazprom would get greater access to gas trading and storage in Germany.
“These are company decisions that the German government has no influence over and does not try to influence,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer told a regular government news conference.
“Whether this leads to a general thaw in relations with Russia in connection with the crisis in eastern Ukraine, I would advise a certain amount of scepticism,” he added.
“The criteria and conditions under which the European Union and Germany might be ready to change their stance towards Russia with regard to its behaviour in eastern Ukraine, for example in relation to sanctions, are unchanged. We need progress in eastern Ukraine for that.”
Reporting by Noah Barkin and Caroline Copley; Writing by Paul Carrel