BERLIN (AP) – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is travelling to the Middle East on Saturday for a two-day, three-country visit aimed at striking new energy deals and forging fresh alliances amid the economic and geopolitical turmoil resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The German government has scrambled to wean Europe’s biggest economy off Russian oil, coal, and gas since coming to office last December.
Although imports from Russia fell sharply in recent months, Germany is now facing fears of an energy crisis, similar to other European countries.
According to senior officials, breaking the natural gas supply gap is an urgent concern. Scholz will be traveling with a high-ranking business delegation to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.
The officials, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity ahead of the trip, said Scholz will also address human rights issues when he meets Saturday with Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah.
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In July, U.S. President Joe Biden was criticised for his meeting with the Saudi Crown Prince. This despite the fact that there are allegations that he participated in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
“Of course this trip is being closely watched and we’re going to encounter difficult partners there,”According to one German official, “And yet we can’t refuse to have such meetings and such cooperation.”
“In a world with 193 countries and big differences, it’s not just the German chancellor but many other leaders too who are seeking out talks at the moment and trying to forge new alliances and strengthen old ties,”He said. He wasn’t authorized to use his name during the trip.
The German leader will fly from Saudi Arabia to Abu Dhabi where he’ll meet President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the United Arab Emirates president and sign an agreement on energy. Talks there will also address the country’s hosting of next year’s U.N. climate talks.
The final stop is Doha, where Scholz will meet Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, to discuss bilateral relations, regional issues such as tensions with Iran and the Gulf nation’s upcoming hosting of the soccer World Cup.
German officials said all energy agreements will take into account the country’s plans to become carbon neutral by 2045, requiring a shift from natural gas to hydrogen produced with renewable energy in the coming decades. According to them, Saudi Arabia has great potential for producing hydrogen from solar energy.
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