Jeddah/Abu Dhabi In the meantime, Chancellor Olaf Scholz wants to push ahead with cooperation with the United Arab Emirates in the energy sector. “A whole series” of diesel and liquid gas projects have already been advanced with the Gulf State, said the SPD politician on Sunday in Abu Dhabi. He emphasized how important it is to rely on as many suppliers as possible for the energy supply. Dependence on one supplier “will certainly not happen to us again,” emphasized Scholz.
Until the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, Germany still obtained 55 percent of its natural gas from Russia. Deliveries from there have now largely ceased and the German gas suppliers are looking for new sources of supply. The United Arab Emirates have the seventh largest natural gas reserves in the world. It was expected that a contract for the supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Germany would be signed during the Chancellor’s visit.
At his meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Scholz addressed the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. “We have discussed all questions that revolve around questions of civil and human rights,” said the SPD politician on Saturday after the conversation in the port city of Jeddah in response to a journalist’s question.
“That’s how it should be. And you can be sure that nothing has gone unanswered that needs to be said.” Scholz also said that he had raised the issue of freedom of expression. But he gave no further details.
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The crown prince is held responsible by the US secret service for the brutal murder of the Saudi government critic and journalist Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate General in Istanbul four years ago.
The heir to the throne denies being the mastermind. The murder had led to Mohammed’s international isolation and plunged German-Saudi relations into a crisis that lasted for years.
Conversation under Portrait of the King
The Crown Prince received the Chancellor in the Royal Palace of Peace (Al-Salam Palace) with a strong handshake. For a first conversation, both took a seat under a portrait of King Salman. With his visit, Scholz sets a sign of normalization.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has since resigned, and US President Joe Biden were Germany’s most important allies in Saudi Arabia before him. In July, the Crown Prince traveled to the EU for official meetings for the first time since the murder.
Scholz builds on this and wants to pick up the thread of the conversation again with a view to the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine and its consequences. For him, it’s about staying in dialogue with difficult partners so as not to lose them to countries like Russia or China.
Biden also asked the crown prince about the murder of Khashoggi during his visit to Jeddah in July. At the time, after the conversation, he said that the Crown Prince had once again rejected responsibility for the crime. “He was basically saying that he wasn’t personally responsible for it. I indicated that I think he is,” Biden said.
Human rights organizations are demanding clear words from Scholz
Despite some reforms, the strictly conservative Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been criticized for its human rights situation. The human rights organization Amnesty International demanded clear words from the Chancellor to the Crown Prince before the trip: “Even in view of all the geopolitical and energy policy constraints, the Chancellor should not remain silent about the human rights violations in the country during his trip to Saudi Arabia.”
Reporters Without Borders (ROG) called on Scholz to address press freedom. “But if he wants to do business with these governments, he should set one condition: that their rulers stop trampling on the media as a fundamental pillar of the rule of law,” ROG Germany CEO Christian Mihr told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung “ (NOZ).
Cooperation on hydrogen
Scholz emphasized that the economic issues were primarily about cooperation in the production and transport of hydrogen. Scholz did not answer the question of whether the crown prince had asked him to relax the arms export rules. “Everyone knows that we have a very strict policy here. And in line with these rules, decisions have been made in recent years that have been well considered. And we will continue to make well-considered decisions,” he said.
According to research by the peace research institute Sipri, the kingdom is one of the five largest arms importers in the world, and Germany is one of the five largest exporters. Under the traffic light government, however, not a single armaments export to the kingdom was approved.
The reason is an export ban that has been in effect since November 2018 because of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the war in neighboring Yemen and because of the Khashoggi murder. Chancellor Scholz and his government have so far made no use of an exception rule for European joint projects.
More: Olaf Scholz: “Currencies should only be provided by the state”