German Leader Seeks Deals, Alliances 09/24 08:59
BERLIN (AP) -- German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is traveling 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.
While imports from Russia have declined sharply since then, there are fears
that Germany, like other European countries, could face an energy shortage in
the coming months.
Bridging the gap in natural gas supplies is a particular concern and one of
the reasons Scholz is heading to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and
Qatar together with a high-level business delegation, senior officials said.
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.
U.S. President Joe Biden was criticized in July for meeting with the Saudi
crown prince, despite allegations that he was involved in the killing of Saudi
journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
"Of course this trip is being closely watched and we're going to encounter
difficult partners there," one German official said. "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 was not
authorized to be quoted by name on the trip,
From Saudi Arabia the German leader flies to Abu Dhabi, where he will meet
with President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates
and sign an energy accord. 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
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.
Saudi Arabia, which has vast regions suitable for cheap solar power generation,
is seen as a particularly suitable supplier of hydrogen, they said.