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ENERGY

Germany’s Scholz in Saudi Arabia on Gulf energy hunt

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrived Saturday in Saudi Arabia at the start of a two-day Gulf tour, in the hope of sealing new energy deals with the fossil fuel exporters.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz pictured at the entrance of the Chancellery in Berlin on September 23, 2022. Photo: Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP

Scholz, accompanied by a sizeable industry delegation, was received at Jeddah airport on the Red Sea coast by Mecca region’s governor Prince Khalid bin Faisal Al Saud.

Afterwards, he went into a meeting with Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

He is also scheduled to meet a group of Saudi women, before heading to the United Arab Emirates on Saturday evening and then to Qatar on Sunday.

The chancellor hopes to agree new energy partnerships with the oil- and gas-rich Gulf states, with the loss of supplies from Russia in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine.

Scholz however is faced with a diplomatic balancing act, as he will have to navigate significant differences with his hosts over human rights.

Scholz’s meeting with the Saudi crown prince is seen as particularly sensitive.

Until recently, Prince Mohammed was regarded as a pariah in the West due to the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

The German government strongly condemned the journalist’s murder and would not be “editing” its position, government sources indicated ahead of the tour.

Saudi Arabia’s importance as a fossil fuels exporter and regional power meant a “solid working relationship” was needed with the crown prince, a government source explained.

The 37-year-old Prince Mohammed was likely to steer the country through “the next 10, 20 or 30 years”, he added.

Berlin wants to extend cooperation on new technologies such as green hydrogen produced using renewable energy, which Germany could import in vast quantities from the Gulf states, said government sources.

The chancellor would also seek to strengthen political cooperation with the regional powers, courted on the other side by Russia and China.

“We have to work with Saudi Arabia if we want to sort out, for example, the question of the war in Yemen or tackle the Iranian question,” the government source said.

On Sunday morning, Scholz will meet with UAE’s President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.

Later that day, the chancellor will travel to gas-rich Qatar to hold talks with Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

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ENERGY

Norway and Germany seek Nato-led cooperation for key undersea structures

Germany and Norway want to start a NATO-led alliance to protect critical underwater infrastructure, their leaders said on Wednesday, weeks after explosions hit two key gas pipelines in the fallout from the war in Ukraine.

Norway and Germany seek Nato-led cooperation for key undersea structures

 “We are in the process of asking the NATO Secretary General to set up a coordination office for the protection of underwater infrastructure,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told a press conference in Berlin.

“We take the protection of our critical infrastructure very seriously and nobody should believe that attacks will remain without consequences,” he said.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said the alliance would be “an informal initiative to exchange between civilian and also military actors” with NATO providing “a centre, a coordination point”.

Underwater cables and pipelines were “arteries of the modern economy” and it was necessary to create “a coordinated joint effort to ensure security for this infrastructure”, he said.

Scholz said he and Store would propose the plan to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who is due in Berlin for a security conference. The Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines off the Danish island of Bornholm were targeted by two huge explosions at the end of September.

The pipelines, which connect Russia to Germany, had been at the centre of geopolitical tensions as Moscow cut gas supplies to Europe in suspected
retaliation to Western sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine.

Although they were not in operation when the leaks occurred, they both still contained gas which spewed up through the water and into the atmosphere.

Russia and Western countries, particularly the United States, have traded bitter barbs over who is responsible for the blasts.

Several European countries have since taken steps to increase security around critical infrastructure. 

The G7 interior ministers warned earlier this month at a meeting in Germany that the Nord Stream explosions had highlighted “the need to better protect our critical infrastructure”.

Norway has become Europe’s main gas supplier in the wake of the war in Ukraine, taking the place of Russia.

The Scandinavian country has a vast network of pipelines, stretching for almost 9,000 kilometres, linking it to the continent, which experts have said are at risk of sabotage.

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