Russian oil embargo could be part of next EU sanctions package, ministers say
- Commission is preparing grounds of embargo
- Ireland, Baltics in favour, Hungary against
- Governments wary of rising energy prices
LUXEMBOURG, April 11 (Reuters) - The European Union's executive is drafting proposals for an EU oil embargo on Russia, the foreign ministers of Ireland, Lithuania and the Netherlands said on Monday, although there was no agreement to ban Russian crude.
Many of the ministers meeting in Luxembourg showed support for sanctions on Russian oil imports, the EU's top diplomat Josep Borrell said, but for others, such a ban would constitute an "asymmetric shock", he said. The bloc agreed, however, to intensify the delivery of weapons to Ukraine, Germany said.
"They are now working on ensuring that oil is part of the next sanctions package," Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said of the European Commission.
Targeting Russian oil, which makes up about a quarter of the EU's crude imports, is seen as the EU's next step as it seeks to pressure Russia to halt the shelling of Ukrainian cities following Moscow's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.
Galvanised by what Ukraine says are senseless killings of civilians by Russian troops since the invasion, the bloc last week approved a fifth round of sanctions on Russia that included an end to Russian coal imports.
Russia has denied targeting civilians in what it calls a "special operation" to "denazify" its southern neighbour.
"Nothing is off the table, including sanctions on oil and gas," Borrell said. He has previously said an embargo must happen "sooner or later". The European Parliament last week voted for an embargo, although its decision is not binding.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on April 5 that she was considering additional sanctions, including on oil imports, based in part on proposals from EU governments. Those ideas include imposing tariffs on Russian oil, or a ban on some oil products. Borrell said EU states were also working independently to reduce their dependency.
Any oil embargo rests on both the technical details of the scope and phase-in time of such a move and the support of the EU's 27 member states. Energy dependence varies across the bloc, with countries such as Bulgaria almost totally dependent on Russian oil. Hungary has said it cannot support an oil embargo.
Germany's position, as the EU's biggest economy, will be crucial. While offering Ukraine more weapons, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called for a "coordinated plan to completely phase out fossil fuels" from Russia. EU diplomats said Berlin is not actively supporting an immediate embargo.
The United States and Britain have banned Russian oil, hoping to cut off a significant source of revenue for Moscow. The decision is harder for Europe's economy due to its dependency and could push up already high energy prices.
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