Jeddah Chancellor Olaf Scholz addressed the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi during his meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. “We have discussed all issues related to civil and human rights issues,” he said SPD-Politician on Saturday after the conversation in the port city of Jeddah to a journalist’s question.
“That’s how it should be. And you can be sure that nothing has gone unanswered that needs to be said.” Scholz also said that he had raised the issue of freedom of expression. But he gave no further details.
The Crown Prince is used by the US Secret Service for the brutal murder of Saudi government critic and journalist Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate General in Istanbul four years ago.
The heir to the throne denies being the mastermind. The murder had led to Mohammed’s international isolation and plunged German-Saudi relations into a crisis that lasted for years.
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Conversation under Portrait of the King
The Crown Prince received the Chancellor in the Royal Palace of Peace (Al-Salam Palace) with a strong handshake. For a first conversation, both took a seat under a portrait of King Salman. With his visit, Scholz sets a sign of normalization.
With French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has since resigned, and US President Joe Biden Germany’s most important allies were in before him Saudi Arabia. In July, the Crown Prince traveled to the EU for official meetings for the first time since the murder.
Scholz builds on this and wants to pick up the thread of the conversation again with a view to the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine and its consequences. For him, it’s about staying in dialogue with difficult partners, so as not to send them to countries like Germany Russia or lose China.
Biden also asked the crown prince about the murder of Khashoggi during his visit to Jeddah in July. At the time, after the conversation, he said that the Crown Prince had once again rejected responsibility for the crime. “He was basically saying that he wasn’t personally responsible for it. I indicated that I think he is,” Biden said.
Human rights organizations are demanding clear words from Scholz
Despite some reforms, the strictly conservative Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been criticized for its human rights situation. The human rights organization Amnesty International demanded clear words from the Chancellor to the Crown Prince before the trip: “Even in view of all the geopolitical and energy policy constraints, the Chancellor should not remain silent about the human rights violations in the country during his trip to Saudi Arabia.”
Reporters Without Borders (ROG) called on Scholz to address press freedom. “But if he wants to do business with these governments, he should set one condition: that their rulers stop trampling on the media as a fundamental pillar of the rule of law,” ROG CEO said GermanyChristian Mihr, the “Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung” (NOZ).
Cooperation on hydrogen
Scholz emphasized that the economic issues were primarily about cooperation in the production and transport of hydrogen. Scholz did not answer the question of whether the crown prince had asked him to relax the arms export rules. “Everyone knows that we have a very strict policy here. And in line with these rules, decisions have been made in recent years that have been well considered. And we will continue to make well-considered decisions,” he said.
According to research by the peace research institute Sipri, the kingdom is one of the five largest arms importers in the world, and Germany is one of the five largest exporters. But not a single one is under the traffic light government arms export more been approved to the kingdom.
The reason is an export ban that has been in effect since November 2018 because of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the war in neighboring Yemen and because of the Khashoggi murder. Chancellor Scholz and his government have so far made no use of an exception rule for European joint projects.
Further meetings in the Emirates and Qatar
Scholz was supposed to travel to the United Arab Emirates and then to Qatar on Saturday evening. Like Saudi Arabia, both countries are important energy exporters. Before the trip, it was still unclear which contracts would be concluded for the supply of gas or – in the medium and long term – hydrogen from the region to Germany.
The Chancellor’s environment said: “We will bring ambitious proposals to a conclusion.” However, the trip should not become a pure “energy shopping tour”. Scholz is accompanied by eleven top managers. Among others are airbus, thyssenkrupp and SiemensEnergy represented in the business delegation. The energy industry is not only hoping for short-term gas exports from the Gulf region from the trip.