13:38 GMT27 February 2021
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    Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is coming under fire for signing up to advise the Serbian prime minister, Aleksandar Vucic, in a deal that is allegedly funded by the United Arab Emirates.

    Blair — who was a strong advocate of putting ground forces in Kosovo and the bombing of Belgrade in 1999 in the former Republic of Yugoslavia — has been confirmed as having set up a "delivery unit", under the aegis of Tony Blair Associates.

    Blair was to describe his part in the NATO intervention in the Kosovo War — in which the Serbian government was accused of attempting to change "the ethnic composition of Kosovo and creating an apartheid-like society" — as being necessary to "to avert what would otherwise be a humanitarian disaster in Kosovo".  

    The Kosovo Report later determined that "the NATO military intervention was illegal, but legitimate". Blair is considered a hero in Kosovo for his support for them against the Belgrade government at the time.

    Blair's decision to become an adviser to Vucic's Belgrade government was confirmed by his office in a statement which said: "This project was directly negotiated and agreed between Serbia and TBA (Tony Blair Associates) following meetings between Tony Blair and the Serbia prime minister and was not part of any wider agreement".

    Blair's Middle East Links Slammed

    His deal to advise Vucic is all the more surprising as the Serbian prime minister is listed as being an editor of the 2005 book called ‘English Gay Fart Tony Blair'.

    He set up Tony Blair Associates to "allow him to provide, in partnership with others, strategic advice on a commercial and pro bono basis, on political and economic trends and governmental reform", according to his own website.

    Blair's office would not, however, confirm who was funding the deal, although government sources in Belgrade said it was the United Arab Emirates. Blair now faces further criticism of his financial links with the Middle East, because it can be perceived as conflicting with his role as Middle East envoy for the United Nations, European Union, United States, and Russia.

    His office said the alleged UAE connection would not conflict with his role as envoy. "The work of the Delivery Unit has no bearing on Tony Blair's role in the Middle East for the Palestinian economy," it said in a statement.

    He has already faced criticism after The Guardian reported in July 2014 that Blair had agreed to advise the Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Size, who came to power in a military coup in 2013, as part of a programme funded by the United Arab Emirates that has promised to deliver huge "business opportunities" to those involved.


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