Diplomats say the EU is leaning toward a Russian oil embargo by the end of the year 2022-05-01 09:54:00

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A Russian state flag flutters on top of a diesel plant at the Yarakta oil field, owned by the Irkutsk Oil Company, in the Irkutsk region, Russia, March 10, 2019. Photo taken March 10, 2019. REUTERS/Vassily Fedosenko/file photo

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union is leaning toward a ban on Russian oil imports by the end of the year, two European Union diplomats said, after talks between the European Commission and EU member states this weekend.

The European Union is preparing a sixth package of sanctions against Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine just over two months ago, which Moscow calls a special military operation.

The package is expected to target Russian oil, Russian and Belarusian banks, as well as more individuals and companies.

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The Commission, which is coordinating the EU response, has held so-called “communal” talks with small groups of EU countries and will aim to toughen its sanctions plan in time for the meeting of EU ambassadors in Brussels on Wednesday.

European Union energy ministers are due to meet in the Belgian capital on Monday to discuss the issue.

EU diplomats said some EU countries were able to end their use of oil before the end of 2022, but other countries, particularly members in the south, were concerned about the impact on prices.

Diplomats said Germany, one of Russia’s biggest oil buyers, appeared ready to agree to halt production by the end of 2022, but countries such as Austria, Hungary, Italy and Slovakia had reservations.

An adviser to Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany supports the European Union’s ban on Russian oil imports, but needs a few months to secure alternatives.

“We are asking for a considered period of liquidation,” Jörg Cookes was quoted as saying by the Financial Times. “We want to stop buying Russian oil, but we need some time to make sure that we can bring other sources of oil into our country.”

Cookes said Germany wanted to ensure that a refinery in Schwedt in northeastern Germany operated by Russia’s state oil company Rosneft could supply non-Russian oil that tankers transported to Rostock on the Baltic Sea.

He told the Financial Times that to allow this, the port of Rostock must be deepened and work on the pipeline connecting it to Schwedt.

Some EU countries have suggested choosing a maximum price they are willing to pay for Russian oil. However, it would still leave them forced to pay higher prices for supplies than elsewhere.

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(Reporting by Philip Blinkensop) Editing by Barbara Lewis

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