(Photo credit: Reuters)
Chancellor of Germany Olaf Scholz kicked off his two-day Gulf tour with a visit to Saudi Arabia on Saturday, 24 September. The chancellor is accompanied by a large industry delegation that will be part of the talks with representatives of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar.
Scholz’s tour is part of Germany’s latest efforts to diversify its energy supply, amidst a looming energy shortage due to aggressive sanctions against Russia.
After the meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), Scholz said they discussed closer bilateral trade cooperation focusing on fossil fuels, hydrogen, and renewable energy sources.
When German journalists accompanying him on his flight asked about the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, Scholz responded with, “you can be sure that nothing was left unsaid.”
The relationship between Saudi Arabia and Germany soured after the murder when US intelligence revealed the direct involvement of MbS.
The murder led to the crown prince’s isolation from the west and plunged German-Saudi relations into a crisis that lasted for years. The chancellor’s visit on Saturday is considered an important first step to normalizing ties between both countries.
Former German chancellor Angela Merkel had described Saudi Arabia as an “attractive business partner,” but said the human rights situation in the country had its “deficits.”
Scholz also addressed the war in Ukraine with the crown prince, which is considered the primary reason for his rapprochement with Saudi Arabia.
“I have made it clear that it is important for us to support Ukraine in defending its own integrity and sovereignty and that we will continue to do so – and that Russia must withdraw its troops,” he added.
After his visit to Saudi Arabia, Scholz left for the United Arab Emirates and Qatar on Saturday evening.
The chancellor met with Emirati President Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan to sign a deal on energy cooperation and left on Sunday for Qatar to discuss trade, the World Cup, and issues such as regional tensions with Iran.