Oil, gas, hydrogen: the wealth of energy in the Gulf region has already lured Minister of Economics Habeck there. Chancellor Scholz is now spending a weekend on the Arabian Peninsula.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) does not want his trip to the three most powerful states on the Arabian Peninsula to be purely an “energy shopping tour”, but also to address the human rights situation and security issues.
Before leaving for Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, government officials said they wanted to openly discuss differences. It is still unclear which contracts will be concluded for the import of gas or – in the medium and long term – hydrogen from the region to Germany. However, the Chancellor’s environment said: “We will bring ambitious proposals to a conclusion.”
Scholz wants to address Khashoggi’s murder
Scholz will first travel to Saudi Arabia on Saturday and then visit the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, where the World Cup will take place in late autumn. In the Saudi metropolis of Jeddah, the Chancellor will meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is held responsible by the US secret service for the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate General in Istanbul four years ago. The crown prince denies having approved the act.
The murder had led to a deep diplomatic crisis between Germany and Saudi Arabia. Government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit had already said when announcing the trip that the crime would “certainly also play a role” in the Chancellor’s talks.
After the murder, the crown prince was initially largely isolated internationally. A meeting with US President Joe Biden in Jeddah and a trip to the European Union in July, during which he met French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, among others, have initiated a normalization of his relations with Western heads of state and government.
Organizations complain about “massive human rights violations”
Despite some reforms, the strictly conservative Kingdom of Saudi Arabia continues to be criticized for its human rights situation. The human rights organization Amnesty International demanded clear words from the Chancellor to the Crown Prince on Friday. “Even in view of all the geopolitical and energy-political constraints, the Chancellor should not remain silent about the human rights violations in the country during his trip to Saudi Arabia,” said Katja Müller-Fahlbusch, Amnesty expert for the Middle East and North Africa.
The director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), Chalid Ibrahim, fears that the governments of the three countries want to use “the visit to cover up further massive human rights violations”. He called on the chancellor to stand up for people who were arbitrarily arrested.
Spahn: “Another curtsey for nothing doesn’t help”
In the United Arab Emirates and in Qatar, gas supply is likely to be the focus of the Chancellor’s visit on Sunday. Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) agreed on an energy partnership during a visit to Qatar in March. Concrete agreements with German companies are not yet known. Qatar had invested in gas since the 1980s and 1990s and is now one of the world’s largest LNG exporters.
Union faction vice Jens Spahn demanded progress in efforts to deliver gas before the trip. “Another curtsey for nothing does not help. Concrete delivery commitments and timetables are finally needed,” said Spahn, referring to Habeck’s bow to a Qatari minister. The Green politician said at the end of July that the companies he was in Qatar with in March had decided to buy gas elsewhere.