ZURICHAustria’s OMV supports the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany despite the threat of U.S. sanctions, CEO Rainer Seele said.

“This project is of great importance for the security of supply of the European gas market, it is therefore Europe’s responsibility to decide,” Seele told Austrian newspaper Wiener Zeitung.

“We have had a deep transatlantic friendship with the USA for decades. And friends shouldn’t threaten each other,” he said in an interview published on March 20.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last week the State Department was tracking efforts to complete the natural gas pipeline and evaluating information on entities that appear to be involved.

Any company involved should immediately abandon work or risk U.S. sanctions, Blinken said.

Nearly 20 companies, mostly insurance firms, recently quit the project after Washington warned that they could be sanctioned.

OMV’s Seele said he hoped the projectwhich is being led by Russia’s Gazpromwould be completed.

The Austrian company is one of Gazprom’s partners in the 9.5 billion euro project.

Others include Germany’s Uniper, BASF’s Wintershall Dea, Royal Dutch Shell and France’s Engie.

The project pits Germany against central and eastern European nations which argue the project to double Russia’s gas export capacity across the Baltic Sea increases Europe’s dependence on Russian gas and could be used as a political tool by Moscow.

Lithuania’s foreign affairs minister said last month the project should be paused until Russia’s parliamentary elections in September to pressure Moscow for democratic reforms and as a compromise between its European supporters and critics.

“In Europe we have clear rules of the game that are based on consensus. The concerns of smaller member states must therefore be taken into account,” Seele told the newspaper.

“As a connecting country for Nord Stream 2, Germany has a clear position. Political dialogue has to be conducted and persuasion has to be done.”