Were Tony Blair and the Quartet objective players in the Mideast peace negotiations? A new report shows they were heavily funded by the United Arab Emirates.
Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, who served as the Middle East envoy for the Quartet, received millions of pounds from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) during his tenure as the envoy, the UK’s Telegraph reported Monday.
Comprised of the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia, the Quartet was established in 2002 to resolve the Israel-Palestinain conflict along the guidelines of the Road Map pushed by former US President George W. Bush. Blair served as its envoy for eight years, with no results.
The Arab state reportedly funded Blair’s office in London and also employed him as a consultant, for which they paid him millions.
Such funding would have compromised his supposedly unbiased and even-handed approach to solving the conflict.
Blair, who previously faced questions over conflicts of interest when he took up the diplomatic role with the Quartet, has always insisted he kept his public and private work separate, and that Quartet staff were not involved in “commercial work.”
He previously admitted the UAE compensated the same company for his work as an “unpaid special envoy” to the Middle East and for his work as a “private consultant” for a sovereign wealth fund in UAE’s capital, Abu Dhabi.
Blair says the monies paid were for travel, and he took none of the funds. His office claimed he was not paid for his role as the Quartet envoy, so any money went toward travel and accommodation for him and his London-based staff, and the bank account used for both roles was purely for “accounting purposes.”
Contributions Never Disclosed
Contributions by the Arab state towards Blair’s Quartet work were never disclosed on the Office of the Quartet Representative (OQR) website’s funding page, which declares income from other sources, including the US, Canada and the UK.
Emails seen by the Telegraph reveal that a year and a half into the envoy role, Nick Banner, Blair’s Quartet chief of staff on loan from the Foreign Office, went to the UAE and met Khaldoon Al Mubarak, the chief executive of Mubadala, the sovereign wealth fund Blair advised as a paid consult for the next year.
Blair’s office refused to explain what the meeting was about.
Emails show that before Banner became involved, Blair secured then UAE foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s backing for business he was involved in. Blair also held countless official meetings with the sheikh in his envoy role.
Blair’s office denied Banner flew to Abu Dhabi to arrange business meetings and claimed no such meeting took place.
In 2015, when Blair stepped down as special envoy, the ex-Labour leader’s office said his Quartet staff were “never involved in commercial work.”
The Telegraph’s report claimed to have seen details of a total of £1.2m in payments to Windrush, Blair’s company, from Sheikh Abdullah’s office in 2011.
Other invoices suggest Windrush received at least £8m from the UAE foreign ministry for work in Colombia, Vietnam and Mongolia.
Blair’s Spokesman Denies Report
A spokesman for Blair denied the report.
“This is a reheated story Mr. Blair has answered time and again. For the record the Quartet role was ex officio and unpaid,” he stated. “There was no budget for it. Mr. Blair gave his own time for free but had to raise money for the costs of the staff hired to do the work for their expenses and for his expenses, including substantial costs for travel and accommodation when doing OQR (Office of the Quartet Representative) work, in a timely and efficient manner,” the statement said. “The story about conflicts of interest with his non OQR activities was always false.”
The spokesman added Mr Blair had already acknowledged UAE “supported” his work over the years for governance roles in countries like Colombia and Serbia.
“In addition they contributed to the costs of Mr. Blair and his London based staff for the work he and they did for the Quartet role, particularly travel. None of this money went to Mr. Blair personally,” he added.