Scholz to visit Saudi Arabia as Germany seeks energy supplies

Chancellor Olaf Scholz will visit Saudi Arabia and meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as part of a Gulf trip, his spokesman said Monday, as Germany rushes to secure energy supplies.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks at an event on September 15th.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks at an event on September 15th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa Pool | Bernd von Jutrczenka

Scholz, whose two-day trip next weekend will also take him to Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, becomes the latest Western leader to meet with the crown

Bin Salman was until recently regarded as a pariah in the West due to his suspected role in the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

But he is being courted again as Europe and its allies urgently seek fresh sources of fossil fuels after Russia cut gas supplies amid soaring tensions over its invasion of Ukraine.

Scholz, accompanied by a business delegation, will visit Saudi Arabia on Saturday, where he will meet with the crown prince and – if his health permits it – King Salman, government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said.

He did not go into detail about the reasons for Scholz’s Gulf visit but said he would be “very surprised” if the topic of energy was not discussed.

The spokesman also offered assurances that “the murder of Mr Khashoggi will certainly figure in discussions”.

It is the latest sign of bin Salman’s international rehabilitation – in July, French President Emmanuel Macron held talks with him in Paris, and US President Joe Biden visited the kingdom.

On Sunday, Scholz will head to the UAE and meet with President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, and in the afternoon will hold talks with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

Economy Minister Robert Habeck said Scholz would sign contracts there related to liquified natural gas – seen as a key alternative to Russian energy supplies.

Habeck already visited Qatar and the UAE in March in an effort to find alternatives to Russian gas, which Germany has traditionally depended on heavily.

Russia’s decision to cut off supplies has triggered an energy crisis in Europe, with consumers and businesses facing soaring bills as winter approaches.

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Germany says must brace for ‘unimaginable’ after gas leaks

Germany's interior minister said Wednesday the country must prepare for previously "unimaginable" threats to its energy security after dramatic pipeline leaks the EU blamed on sabotage.

Germany says must brace for 'unimaginable' after gas leaks

Nancy Faeser said Europe’s top economy would need to enhance its vigilance to address such risks in the wake of the damage to the Nord Stream 1 and 2 energy links between Germany and Russia.

“We have to adapt to scenarios that were previously unimaginable,” she said. “That requires strong security authorities with the necessary resources and powers.”

Faeser called for a rapid probe of the “probable act of sabotage” on the pipelines beneath the Baltic Sea close to Denmark and Sweden so that “those responsible” can be identified.

“Protecting critical infrastructure has top priority,” she said, adding that Berlin had presumed “for months” that there was an “abstract threat to energy infrastructure” given its high profile in the wake of Russia’s war on Ukraine.

READ ALSO: WATCH: Baltic Sea foams as gas leaks from damaged Nord Stream pipeline

Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said the “troubling incident” underlined the importance of an ongoing “modernisation” of the German navy’s fleet for surveillance in cooperation with partner states on the Baltic.

Methane gas from the leaks are bubbling to the surface of the Baltic Sea in discharges expected to last for a week, until depletion of the gas in the pipelines.

The three outflows from the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, whose cause remain a mystery, have sent natural gas prices soaring, exacerbating an energy crunch in Europe as it stands on the threshold to winter.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that “all available information” indicates the leaks “are the result of a deliberate act”.

Suspicion has focused on Russia, which has cut gas supplies to Europe in retaliation for severe Western sanctions over the war in Ukraine.

Germany, which until recently was highly dependent on Russia energy, will wait for a full investigation of the incident before drawing conclusions, a government spokesman said on Wednesday.

READ ALSO: Who is behind the Nord Stream Baltic pipeline attack?