Olaf Scholz wrapped up a two-day trip to the Persian Gulf region by signing a gas deal with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Sunday, but the German Chancellor’s mission was overshadowed by human rights concerns. man.
Amid Russia halting gas supplies to Germany and soaring energy prices in Europe, Scholz traveled to the region to secure alternative supplies for the economy hungry for energy of his country.
His trip took place while TotalEnergies France announcement a big deal with Qatar on Saturday, under which the French energy giant will invest in the exploration of a new gas field for the export of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and take a 9.4% share of the project.
During a stopover in the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, on Sunday morning, Scholz signed a contract for the delivery of 137,000 cubic meters of LNG, which should arrive in northern Germany at the end of this year, according to German energy supplier RWE. The delivery will therefore likely arrive in time to help Europe’s biggest economy overcome a gas shortage this winter and deal with the fallout from what Scholz described as Russian energy “blackmail”.
However, the LNG deal can only offset a small portion of the 56.3 billion cubic meters of gas Germany received from Russia in 2020. German energy providers have sought to replace Russian gas with last-minute purchases on the global market, but these come at a much higher price.
The agreement with the United Arab Emirates, which also includes additional LNG deliveries in the coming years, has a fixed price and is therefore more advantageous. Scholz recently declared that his country “will live through this winter”.
The gas deal is part of a broader “energy and industrial security acceleration agreement” between Germany and the United Arab Emirates, which “will enable the rapid implementation of strategic flagship projects in the priority areas of renewables, hydrogen, LNG and climate action,” Scholz said. said.
The Chancellor, who is accompanied by a trade delegation, also signed an agreement for the supply of 33,000 tonnes of diesel to Germany this month, and further monthly diesel deliveries of up to 250,000 tonnes .
Scholz will travel to Qatar later on Sunday for further energy talks before returning to Berlin early Monday.
Human rights concerns
The Chancellor’s trip comes against a backdrop of continuing concerns about the human rights situation in the Gulf region.
On Saturday, Scholz traveled to Saudi Arabia, where he met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss various business issues, including German investment in future green hydrogen production in the Arab country. The two leaders also discussed Russia’s war in Ukraine, over which Scholz sought to convince bin Salman to take a tougher line on Moscow, and the war in Yemen.
Not so long ago, bin Salman was an international pariah for his role in condoning the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi government agents.
Asked if he had raised Khashoggi’s murder with the crown prince, Scholz said on Saturday: “We discussed all the issues that revolve around civil and human rights issues. That’s how it is. should be. You can assume that nothing has gone undiscussed that needs to be said.”
The chair of the German parliament’s human rights committee, Renata Alt of the Liberal Democratic Party, had urged Scholz to clearly address human rights concerns during her visit to Saudi Arabia, as well as in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
“As important as it is to secure Germany’s energy supply, it is equally important to respect human rights worldwide. You cannot negotiate on one without addressing the other. “, she added. said.
Ahead of the Gulf trip, a senior German official argued that it was important to strike a balance between trade and energy security interests on the one hand and human rights concerns on the other. .
“It’s a situation you always have in international relations,” the official said. “You have to consider: what are the interests of our country, what are the interests of Europe, what role does Saudi Arabia play in this strategic neighboring region? The prospect that the crown prince will lead the fortunes of the kingdom for the next 10 years, 20s, 30s suggests that we need a strong working relationship in which differences can and should be discussed, but in which we also take note of the fact that there is a range of partnership approaches between Germany and the kingdom,” the official said.
“We are not sitting here before a world tribunal on third countries,” the official continued, stressing that Germany and other Western countries would also talk to Saudi Arabia in the G20 format, “without making any concessions on our clear condemnation and classification of Mr. Khashoggi’s murder…those things exist in parallel, that’s the reality.”
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