Former British prime minister Tony Blair’s organization has reportedly continued a multimillion-pound partnership with Saudi Arabia despite the state-sponsored killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The Sunday Times reported that Blair’s Institute for Global Change remains involved in a modernization push led by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the heir to the Saudi throne.
This is while bin Salman is accused of ordering the 2018 assassination of Khashoggi. The Washington Post journalist, who had been critical of the Riyadh government, was killed and dismembered by Saudi agents in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate in an operation widely believed to be ordered by the crown prince.
In a statement, Blair’s spokesperson confirmed that the institute had kept its involvement in Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, an economic transformation plan aimed at diversifying the Saudi economy away from oil.
After the killing, “anxieties” were initially expressed internally on how to proceed with the partnership with Riyadh, he added.
But ultimately, Blair was of the view that continued engagement was “justified” despite the “terrible crime,” with no opposition from staff or board members.
Earlier reports said that Blair’s organization has been advising the Saudi government as part of a £9 million ($11.8 million) “not-for-profit” arrangement.
‘Bin Salman invited to UK’
Last month, the Financial Times reported that British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had invited bin Salman to visit the UK in the autumn.
The British daily quoted an official as saying, “It’s more up to them, given we need them more than they need us.”
After Khashoggi’s killing, Saudi Arabia was broadly shunned, with many corporations withdrawing or pausing investments in the country.
Recently, however, there has been a shift in the trend as certain world powers are turning a blind eye to Saudi Arabia’s human rights record in a bid to attract investment from the oil-rich state.
US President Joe Biden traveled to Saudi Arabia in July 2022, sparking heavy criticism from human rights campaigners.