Sir Tony Blair’s institute has continued to advise and receive money from the Saudi government since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, we have learned.
The former prime minister’s organization is involved in a multi-million pound partnership to help a modernization campaign led by Gulf state Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salmane reported The Sunday Times.
The prince, widely known as MBS, who is the country’s de facto leader, was accused of ordering the assassination of dissident Washington Post journalist Mr Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
He denied any involvement and accused rogue officers.
Sir Tony’s spokesman confirmed to The Sunday Times that the institute had continued its involvement in Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, a sweeping economic reform program aimed at boosting tourism and reducing dependence on oil, after the death of Mr. Khashoggi.
According to a statement, “anxieties” were first expressed internally as the institute considered how to continue the partnership, which began in 2017, following the murder.
But ultimately Sir Tony was of the opinion that the continued engagement was “justified” despite the “terrible crime”, the spokesman said.
No staff or board member objected to the decision.
“The renewed engagement of the United States and Western nations with Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman illustrates why this decision was correct,” a statement read.
Sunak invited the crown prince to the UK
It comes after the Financial Times reported that Rishi Sunak invited the crown prince to the UK in the fall. Downing Street declined to comment at the time.
A visit to the UK would show Western countries how Prince Mohammed was welcomed into the diplomatic fold after he was expelled over the murder.
Britain is aiming to strengthen its ties with the kingdom despite concerns over its human rights record as it seeks to attract investment from the oil-rich Gulf after Brexit.
The FT said details of the trip had not yet been finalized, quoting an official as saying: “It is more up to them, given that we need them more than they need us. »
Prime Minister did not discuss Khashoggi murder at summit meeting
Mr Sunak met Prince Mohammed on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali last November, where they discussed social reforms and civil liberties, but not the murder of Mr Khashoggi, Number 10 said at the time .
US President Biden broached the topics during his own energy and security talks when he met the crown prince last year, suggesting he believed the Saudi leader was responsible for the murder.
A statement from Sir Tony’s office said it “was of the opinion then and is of the firm opinion now that the ongoing program of social and economic change in Saudi Arabia is of immense and positive significance to the region and the world…the relationship with Saudi Arabia is of critical strategic importance to the West, and therefore it is justified to remain engaged there”.