March 16, 2015 / 3:58 PM / in 3 years

Oil embargo should be considered if Libya talks fail, Spain says

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Spain said on Monday the European Union should consider an oil embargo and freezing of Libyan central bank assets if U.N.-brokered talks to resolve the country’s political crisis failed.

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo attends a joint news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (not pictured) at the Foreign Ministry in Madrid March 12, 2015. REUTERS/Juan Medina

EU foreign ministers agreed to draw up proposals for an EU mission to Libya if the talks produced a deal between two rival governments and armed factions battling for power and oil wealth four years after NATO helped oust Muammar Gaddafi.

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo told reporters formation of a united government was the “last hope for a peaceful solution”. Should the talks fail, the EU should take measures to force the parties back to the table.

“I think we should consider measures to freeze the assets of the central bank ... and possibly impose an oil embargo, to convince all parties that only with political stability, there can be economic growth,” Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said.

Ministers backed a call by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to examine sending a mission to Libya, without giving any details at this stage. Italy’s foreign minister said sending European police officers “would be of huge importance”.

Mogherini has floated the idea of the 28-nation EU sending a team to Libya to monitor a ceasefire or to protect airports and other infrastructure if the talks succeed. She has also suggested EU ships could help police an arms embargo.

Italy, Mogherini’s home country, wants the EU to act to stop the thousands of migrants who set off from Libya to cross the Mediterranean in rickety boats to reach its shores.

“We expect that Europe supports the negotiations in Libya and is ready, once the Libyan negotiations have reached some results, to monitor and to provide economic support,” Italy’s Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni told reporters.

EU diplomats said Mogherini’s plans would necessarily entail sending some European soldiers to Libya, where Islamic State militants have established a presence. A senior EU official said the bloc could consider sending soldiers to protect the government and civilians to help with counter-terrorism.

The EU has sent military or civilian teams to help a number of countries recover from conflicts. The bloc sent border security experts to Libya in 2013 but they were forced to move to Tunisia a year later.

A new EU mission would require a request from Libya and a mandate from the U.N. Security Council, where support from veto-wielding Russia and China is not guaranteed, diplomats said.

Additional reporting by Adrian Croft; editing by Ralph Boulton

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