During his visit to various Middle Eastern countries, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz sought to diversify energy supplies for Germany and the European Union, which have been endangered since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
It can be said that the Social Democrat chancellor's mission was at least 50 per cent accomplished after visiting Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The city of Jeddah was Scholz's first destination, where he was received by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman before intensive meetings with the German business delegation and his Saudi counterpart.
Relations between Germany and Saudi Arabia are not bad, but neither are they excellent, especially after the veto on arms exports that former chancellor Merkel enacted against the Saudi kingdom in the wake of the Khashoggi affair. According to sources quoted by the daily Al-Arab, the very shadow of the Khashoggi case, and an intention by Scholz to "lecture" the Saudi monarchy on the human rights dossier, would have prevented negotiations for an energy alliance pact to free Germany from Russian supplies from succeeding on Saturday in Jeddah.
Few details were made public after the meeting, but it is clear that the results are not what Scholz had hoped for. Saudi Arabia maintains an ambiguous position on the global stage as the West confronts Russia over total energy independence. Official information provided by the Saudi news agency indicates that several areas of partnership between Germany and Saudi Arabia were strengthened during the meeting to promote opportunities for the 2030 development plan.
Klar ist, Gespräche in der Golfregion sind nicht einfach, aber wichtig. Mit dem saudischen Kronprinz habe ich heute in Dschidda über Erneuerbare Energien, wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit, den russischen Angriff auf die Ukraine und die Bedeutung der Menschenrechte gesprochen.— Bundeskanzler Olaf Scholz (@Bundeskanzler) September 24, 2022
If Scholz stumbled over the Khashoggi affair, it is partly because of the media and political pressure he is under from within Germany in relation to this dossier. Germany's largest daily newspaper, Der Spiegel, published a column signed by several politicians and media personalities in which they put the German chancellor on the ropes over the German government's commitment to human rights. However, German diplomatic sources quoted by Al-Arab assure the local daily that Scholz is giving a high profile to the negotiations with Saudi Arabia and that efforts are being made to correct the course of relations between the two countries for the better. In this line, the Saudi Minister of Investment, Khalid al-Falih, assured that "Germany is an important trade and investment partner for the Kingdom, being the fourth source of imports for Saudi Arabia in 2021 and a workplace for German companies".
Green hydrogen partnership with Emirates
Scholz has achieved better results during his time in the United Arab Emirates. According to the Emirati news agency WAM, Scholz signed an agreement with UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan on energy security.
The agreement involves the UAE's national oil company ADNOC and Germany's RWE, and covers the supply of non-liquefied gas. According to the information made public, deliveries will start before the end of 2022, which is understood to be a very strong cooperation and willingness between the parties.
The agreements with Germany also include ammonia exchanges for the transport of green hydrogen, one of the energy sectors in which the UAE is investing the most. By joining forces, Germany and the United Arab Emirates could take over 25 per cent of the global hydrogen market. The cooperation agreements also include a memorandum of understanding between the German scientific research company Fraunhofer-Gesselschaft and the Emirati authorities.
"We remain focused on our goal of capturing 25% of the most important hydrogen market," said UAE Energy Minister Suhail al-Mazrouei to WAM.
On his first official visit to the #UAE, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz @Bundeskanzler visited Jubail Mangrove Park, accompanied by H.E @mariammalmheiri. The park aims to lead in ecological change by developing durable strains of Mangrove. #AbuDhabi pic.twitter.com/Chu2MoC19l— UAE Embassy in Berlin (@UAEinBerlin) September 25, 2022
Before leaving for Qatar, the last destination on the tour, Scholz visited the Jubail Mangrove Park, one of the Emirates' environmental jewels, together with Mariam bint Mohamed Almheiri, the UAE's Minister for Climate Change. The visit to such an ecologically important heritage site is a clear message of the Emirates' commitment to clean energy in cooperation with Germany, where the environmental party has two important seats in Scholz's government.
In Qatar, Scholz was received at Doha airport at 12:30 UTC by the Qatari Minister of Trade and Industry Mohamed bin Hamad bin Qassim al Thani and other members of the Qatari government. He will hold talks there to reach further agreements on energy and to reassess the regional security situation, which is mainly threatened by Iran.