Former British PM Tony Blair's UAE-Egypt links
In the latest set of leaks broadcast on Sunday by the Turkey-based satellite channel Mekameleen, close allies of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi allegedly speak of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s involvement in Egyptian affairs.
An excerpt of the leaks purports to reveal Lieutenant Abbas Kamel, manager of Sisi’s office, speaking to Sobhy Sedky, Egypt's minister of defence: “The Emirati delegation is coming on Tuesday and bringing along Tony Blair. Blair will meet the President on Wednesday. But it’s [the visit] unofficial; they are insisting it be unofficial,” he allegedly says.
“He [Blair] will also meet Mahmoud Hegazy [previously head of intelligence and now head of Egypt's army]. He wants to meet Nabil Fahmy [Egyptian foreign minister] as well. Can you coordinate that for Wednesday,” adds Kamel.
The leaks, which cannot be independently verified, were reportedly recorded in early 2014.
The episode also broadcast a speech by Blair during a Bloomberg conference where he called on international leaders to support the military takeover of the presidency after the ousting of Egypt’s first Islamist president Mohamed Morsi on 3 July 2013.
In a television interview on 30 January 2014, Blair reiterated these calls, saying that Morsi had stolen the revolution and the army had put the country back on track towards democracy.
"This is what I say to my colleagues in the West," said Blair, visiting Egypt as a Quartet special envoy to the Middle East. "The fact is, the Muslim Brotherhood tried to take the country away from its basic values of hope and progress. The army have intervened, at the will of the people, but in order to take the country to the next stage of its development, which should be democratic. We should be supporting the new government in doing that," Blair was reported as saying in the Guardian.
The same leaks have also alleged that Tamarod, a movement that was established to gather popular support against then president Morsi – and possibly intended by Blair in his reference to “the will of the people” – was funded by the UAE.
As a representative of the UN, US, EU and Russia to the Middle East, Blair’s political role in the region has come under sharp criticism for being mixed with “lucrative business opportunities in Egypt and the Gulf,” according to correspondence from Blair's office, revealed by the Guardian.
Blair’s office however has denied such involvement saying: “We are not looking at any business opportunities in Egypt,” his spokesperson told the Guardian while on another occasion saying: “Neither Mr Blair nor his organisations are making any money out of Egypt and there is no desire to do that.”
In June, the Middle East peace envoy was reportedly preparing to give Sisi advice on "economic reform" in collaboration with a UAE-financed taskforce in Cairo, run by the management consultancy Strategy&, formerly Booz and Company, now part of PricewaterhouseCoopers, to attract investment into Egypt's economy, reported the Guardian.
Aides to the former prime minister confirmed that he was actively considering opening an office in Abu Dhabi to support his work in the region, reported the Financial Times in June 2014.
Blair reportedly visited Egypt at least twice in 2014.
These visits were reportedly in preparation for a forthcoming Egypt donors' conference sponsored by the oil-rich UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, scheduled to take place in Sharm el-Sheikh later this month.
Blair's business dealings and consultancies are obscured by a network of companies and partnerships that allow him to avoid publishing full accounts. But his earnings were reported in 2013 to be more than £20m, according to the Guardian.
An analysis of Blair’s business accounts shows the former prime minister and his advisers and consultants have run up expenses and salaries totalling around £57 million in just four years – equivalent to £350,000 a year for each of his staff, reported the Telegraph earlier this year.
In an exclusive interview with Vanity Fair published in January, Blair mentioned Egypt and the coming to power of the Muslim Brotherhood. “People were saying, ‘Maybe they’ll turn out all right.’ I was saying, they’re not going to turn out all right. Look, I took a view right at the outset that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was a disaster. I supported the street movement to get [Morsi] out of power and put Sisi in office. That doesn’t mean I don’t criticise them for some of the things that happened in Egypt.”
Blair goes on to say regarding his support for President Sisi: “I helped him. I have been very happy to help. But I’m not some sort of adviser to Sisi. The UAE supports him and helps him with people.”
Blair's office has responded to allegations he is an advisor to President Sisi with strong denials in a statement published in July 2014, saying: "Tony Blair is not a formal advisor to Sisi, he has simply said that it is vital for Egypt, the region and the world that the new president and his government succeed in reforming their country."