x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Tony Blair: UAE's flood aid shows its importance

Mr Blair, now envoy for the Quartet on the Middle East, said the UAE was "now combining its very obvious economic progress with increasing political ties to the rest of the world".

Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, says the UAE is
Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, says the UAE is "now combining its very obvious economic progress with increasing political ties to the rest of the world".

ABU DHABI // Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, has held up the UAE's immediate dispatch of relief to flood-hit Pakistan as an example of the country's increasing political heft.

Mr Blair, now envoy for the Quartet on the Middle East, said the UAE was "now combining its very obvious economic progress with increasing political ties to the rest of the world". That, he said, "is important not only for the country but for the region.

"The fact that it was one of the first to help people in Pakistan is also an indication that it has got a smart, and also quick, process of decision-taking."

Mr Blair praised the US president, Barack Obama, for launching Middle East peace talks before the country's midterm elections, held last week. He said those elections, in which the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives, should not stall peace efforts.

"The commitment from the president personally and from the administration as a whole is unwavering, and will remain," he said.

While he professed optimism about the peace process, he said Israel's decision to resume building settlements in East Jerusalem "just underlines the need to get a policy of restraint back in place that doesn't end up inhibiting the peace deal".

Mr Blair was speaking the day after attending the first Sir Bani Yas Forum on Peace and Global Security. The event was attended by leaders and foreign ministers including the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

"The Bani Yas Forum is a unique event ... in that it allows high-quality thinkers and decision makers to come together and discuss, in a confidential and private way, the issues facing the region," he said.

He also praised the role of Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Foreign Minister, in spearheading efforts to resolve security challenges.

The former British prime minister said the state visit by Queen Elizabeth later this month was significant because "the relationship between the UAE and UK goes back a long way, as does the strong relationship between the countries' royal families".

It will be the Queen's second visit to the UAE. She was last here in 1979.

Mr Blair's memoir, A Journey, was published in September. He said he has since spoken to Gordon Brown about its scathing profile of his chancellor and successor, but that the details of their conversation "are best left between me and him".

Mr Blair said in his book that he knew Mr Brown would be a "disaster" as prime minister, referring to him as "maddening" and asserting that he has "zero" emotional intelligence.

"It would be very odd if I gave an account of my 10 years in office without describing the relationship and in the end the disagreement," he said.

"I do have great respect for his ability and for his role at the time of the global economic crisis. It was at the time, and probably still remains, a disagreement over policy."

 

econroy@thenational.ae