Scholz visits Saudi Arabia for closer energy partnership

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Saturday after a meeting with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that he wanted to deepen the energy partnership between the two countries.

As rising oil prices and Europe’s energy crisis put Western economies on the backfoot, the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has seen increased visits from world leaders. Both US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron have met with the Saudi leader this year.

Germany, until recently, heavily dependent on Russia for gas, has been seeking to diversify its energy supply since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. Chancellor Scholz said that the partnership should go beyond fossil fuels to include hydrogen and renewable energies.

Many hope the Gulf kingdom's human rights record will be raised during Olaf Scholz's visit. But the chancellor must prioritize energy security and arrest falling German exports to the wealthiest Middle East state.

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman became somewhat of a pariah in the West following the 2018 assassination of dissident Saudi journalist. The country had recently also sentenced a woman for 45 years in prison for her social media posts.

While many German politicians and rights groups are publicly pressuring Mr Scholz to raise Saudi Arabia's human rights record, the chancellor would have a narrow path to tread.

The German chancellor, on a two-day trip to the Gulf, said he had indeed addressed issues involving human and civil rights in talks with the prince.

"We also talked about political issues. For example, issues that revolve around the question of human rights. The question of civil rights, the question of possibilities to express different opinions is of course also a topic of our discussion here", he said.