Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and his Institute continued to advise Saudi Arabia and its Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, even after the killing of journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, it has confirmed.
According to the Sunday Times, the former Prime Minister’s organisation – the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change – maintained its multimillion-pound partnership with Saudi Arabia despite the Gulf State’s involvement in the killing of journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.
The partnership, which began in 2017 and amounts to £9 million paid by Riyadh to the Institute, assists the Kingdom with its modernisation drive and the much-praised reforms led by Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Those efforts are in line with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, with Tony Blair’s Institute playing a major advisory role in its implementation.
Throughout the course of the investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance in early October 2019, Blair had expressed concern over the incident and had acknowledged it went against the spirit of Saudi Arabia’s reforms. Despite that, he refused to cancel his Iinstitute’s deal with the country when Khashoggi’s killing was discovered and it became ever more evident that Riyadh and bin Salman had a direct hand in it.
The continuation of the Institute’s partnership has now been confirmed by Blair’s spokesman, who told the Sunday Times last week that although “anxieties” were initially expressed internally and the organisation considered how to proceed with the partnership in light of the “terrible crime”, it was decided that the deal was ultimately necessary and justified, and that no staff or board member opposed that decision.
According to the statement by Blair’s office to the paper, he “took the view then and is strongly of the view now that the programme of social and economic change under way in Saudi Arabia is of immense and positive importance to the region and the world … the relationship with Saudi Arabia is of critical strategic importance to the west, and that therefore staying engaged there is justified”.
The statement insisted that the “renewed engagement of the US and western nations” with the Kingdom and bin Salman, which has accelerated over the past year despite the criticism of rights groups, “illustrates why this decision was correct”.