Abu Dhabi — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has concluded his first official visit to the Arabian Peninusla with new energy supplies from the United Arab Emirates and rapprochement with Saudi Arabia.
During his visit to Abu Dhabi on Sunday, German energy company RWE signed a deal for an initial delivery of 137,000 cubic metres of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the United Arab Emirates, to help reduce Germany's dependence on Russian supplies.
The delivery, in December, is set to be the first to reach a new German LNG terminal in Brunsbüttel, near Hamburg.
According to RWE, a memorandum has been signed for deliveries over several years from 2023.
The initial delivery of 137,000 cubic metres equates to some 0.95 billion kilowatt hours. By comparison, before Russia's attack on Ukraine, the Nord Stream 1 pipeline supplied 1.7 million kilowatt hours of gas on February 1 alone, according to its operator.
Earlier on Sunday, Scholz said that "a whole series" of diesel and liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects are already lined up with the Gulf state.
A second deal was later revealed between German energy firm Hoyer and the Emirati state company ADNOC, which is to supply Germany with up to 250,000 tonnes of diesel fuel per month from 2023.
During his visit to the UAE, Scholz stressed the importance of relying on as many providers as possible for energy supply. Dependence on one supplier "will certainly not happen again," he emphasized.
Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Germany bought 55% of its gas from Moscow. However, since the start of the war, Berlin has been looking for new sources of supply. In the meantime, deliveries from Russia have largely ceased.
The UAE has the world's sixth-largest oil reserves and seventh-largest natural gas reserves.
Scholz had begun his two-day Gulf visit in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, where he brought up the brutal 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Mohammed has been blamed by US intelligence for ordering the murder of Khashoggi. The crown prince denies having authorized the crime.
The murder led to the crown prince being largely isolated internationally, including by Germany.
Answering journalists' questions on Saturday, Scholz said they had "discussed all questions concerning civil and human rights," including the issue of freedom of expression.
The German leader's meeting with bin Salman, which lasted one hour more than scheduled and culminated in lunch, may well signal the beginning of rapprochement between the two countries.
After talks in Abu Dhabi, Scholz travelled on to Qatar, where the agenda will also be topped by further cooperation in the energy sector, though no immediate deals are expected.
Qatar has the world's third-largest gas reserves after Russia and Iran, and is the leading exporter of LNG.
Scholz is also interested in cooperation with the region in the production of hydrogen.
German Economy Minister Robert Habeck had already initiated an energy partnership with Qatar during a visit in March. However, no concrete deals have been signed since then.
After his arrival in Qatar, Scholz suggested that proposals could come soon aimed at lowering Germany's inflated gas prices.
At issue is "how we can reduce the excessively high prices, both those for electricity and those for gas," Scholz said, adding that an expert panel had begun consultations on the issue on Saturday and was doing "very good, constructive" work.
Qatar is to be the venue for the Football World Cup from November 20. The choice is controversial because of the human rights situation in the country. Qatar has come under fire for systematic violations and the exploitation of migrants.
The government rejects the accusations and cites reforms in favour of workers.
Scholz said on Sunday that conditions for migrant workers in Qatar have improved in recent years but remain far from ideal.
"We take note that there is also progress on issues that had to be fought for a long time, such as the situation of workers. Even if that is far from our own ideas [on this issue]," Scholz said in Doha.
The German chancellor did not say whether he would attend the World Cup which runs until December 18 but he said the government would be represented.
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