Germany’s Scholz ink gas deal with UAE – POLITICO

Olaf Scholz culminated 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.

Amid Russia’s halt in gas supplies to Germany and skyrocketing energy prices in Europe, Scholz traveled to the region to secure alternative supplies for his country’s energy-starved economy.

His turn came as France’s TotalEnergies announced a major deal with Qatar on Saturday, in which the French energy giant will invest in the exploration of a new gas field to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) and will take a 9.4 percent stake in the project.

During a stopover in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi on Sunday morning, Scholz signed a contract for the supply of 137,000 cubic meters of LNG, which is expected to arrive in northern Germany at the end of this year, according to German energy provider RWE. The supply is thus likely to come in time to help Europe’s biggest economy overcome a gas shortage this winter and deal with the fallout from what Scholz has described as Russian energy “blackmail”.

However, the LNG deal can only offset a small part of the 56.3 billion cubic meters of gas that Germany received from Russia in 2020. German energy providers have sought to replace the Russian gas with last-minute purchases on the world market. but they come at a much higher price.

The UAE deal, which also includes additional LNG deliveries in the coming years, comes at a fixed price and is therefore more advantageous. Scholz recently said that his country “will get through this winter.”

The gas deal is part of a broader “Energy Security and Industry Accelerator Agreement” between Germany and the UAE, which “will enable the rapid implementation of strategic beacon projects in the focus areas of renewable energy, hydrogen, LNG and climate action,” Scholz said.

The chancellor, who is accompanied by a business delegation, also signed an agreement to supply 33,000 tonnes of diesel to Germany this month and further monthly diesel deliveries of up to 250,000 tonnes.

Scholz will continue to Qatar later on Sunday for further energy talks before returning to Berlin early on Monday.

Human rights concerns

The chancellor’s trip comes against the backdrop of ongoing concerns about the human rights situation in the Gulf region.

On Saturday, Scholz paid a visit to Saudi Arabia, where he met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss a range of business issues, including German investment in the future production of green hydrogen in the Arab country. Both leaders also discussed Russia’s war in Ukraine, with Scholz seeking to convince bin Salman to take a tougher line on Moscow and the war in Yemen.

Not long ago, bin Salman was a pariah on the international stage over his reported role in authorizing the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi government agents.

Asked whether he raised Khashoggi’s murder with the crown prince, Scholz said Saturday: “We discussed all the issues that revolve around issues of civil and human rights. That’s how it should be. You can assume that nothing has been left undiscussed, that must is said.”

The chair of the German parliament’s human rights committee, the Free Democratic Party’s Renata Alt, had urged Scholz to clearly address human rights issues during her visit to Saudi Arabia and also the UAE and Qatar.

“Just as important as it is to secure the energy supply to Germany, it is just as important to respect human rights worldwide. You cannot negotiate about one without addressing the other,” she said.

Ahead of the Gulf trip, a senior German official had argued that it was important to strike a balance between business 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 our country’s interests, what are Europe’s interests, what role does Saudi Arabia play in this strategic neighboring region? The prospect that the crown prince will control the kingdom’s fortunes for the next 10, 20, 30 years suggests that we need a solid working relationship where differences can and must be discussed, but where we also note that there is a wide range of partnership approaches between Germany and the Kingdom,” the official said.

“We are not sitting here in the world court over 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 about our clear condemnation and classification of Mr. Khashoggi’s murder … these things exist in parallel; that is the reality.”

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