Sir Tony Blair's institute has reportedly continued to provide guidance to the Saudi authorities even after the assassination of writer Jamal Khashoggi.
The former PM's organization is involved in a multimillion-pound deal aimed at helping Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in his modernization of the wealthy Gulf state.
Saudi Arabia's crown prince is accused of ordering the brutal assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, an opposition journalist linked to the Washington Post.
The prince has denied any involvement in the murder, which took place at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
An agreement in late 2017 marked the start of the multi-million dollar collaboration between Blair's Institute for Global Change and the Saudi Ministry of Information and Culture.
As part of that engagement, the institute's advisers advised Saudi officials on “the policies and objectives of the reform program.”
The times Blair's spokesman has reportedly confirmed that even after Khashoggi's death, the institute remains involved in Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030, a sweeping economic reform plan aimed at boosting tourism and reducing dependence on oil.
According to an official statement, there were initially internal doubts about the partnership's approach, which had been established in the wake of the 2017 murder.
Despite the “horrible crime,” Mr Blair eventually decided his continued involvement was “justified,” reports the Times.
The spokesman also repeatedly stated that neither employees nor board members objected to the decision.
A statement from Sir Tony's office said the former Labor Prime Minister “was of the view then and remains of the firm belief that the program of social and economic change underway in Saudi Arabia was of enormous and positive importance to the Region and the world is…” “Relations with Saudi Arabia are of crucial strategic importance for the West and therefore it is justified to continue there.”
According to the Financial Times report, it was revealed that Rishi Sunak had invited the prince to visit Britain during the upcoming autumn season.
Downing Street declined to comment on the matter when asked.
This possible visit to the UK is the latest sign Western nations are welcoming the crown prince back into their diplomatic circles, despite his previous expulsion over the murder
As part of its post-Brexit effort to attract investment from the oil-rich Gulf region, the UK is working to strengthen its ties with the UK, despite concerns over its human rights record.
Mr Sunak chatted with Prince Mohammed during November's G20 summit in Bali, which discussed social reform and civil liberties but not the assassination of Mr Khashoggi, No 10 clarified at the time.