Parliament will return to work next week for a brief session before conference season begins, yet its members are already finding concerning ways to spend their time. In a confidential email sent earlier this month, the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates Sulaiman Almazroul invited MPs and peers to attend a private meeting with the UAE’s foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan.
Roundtables with foreign leaders are not unusual, but this one follows a damning report released by the United Nations last week implicating the UAE and Saudi Arabia in human rights violations and war crimes arising from their invasion of Yemen.
The report accused the coalition of being responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians in Yemen, with much of the munitions and equipment responsible supplied by the UK government and its allies. It alleged that on the ground, UAE-controlled forces were implicated in the rape and abuse of Yemeni civilians including migrant women and children.
“This meeting is kindly sponsored by the chairman of the UAE All Party Parliamentary Group, David Jones MP, and is only open to parliamentarians,” the ambassador writes in the email invitation shown to the New Statesman. Jones, a former Conservative cabinet minister is known to be very close to the Emirati government.
According to the House of Commons Register of Interests, Jones traveled to Dubai and Abu Dhabi at the expense of the UAE’s ministry of foreign affairs in February. While there, the ministry picked up his flights and accommodation worth almost £4,000. Other members of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the UAE accompanied him, costing the country’s government £30,000 in total to host them. After his free trip, Jones wrote an article in The National, a newspaper owned by the UAE’s deputy prime minister, claiming that “There is no more obvious partner [for Britain] than the United Arab Emirates.”
Other members of the All Party Group include Labour MP Kevan Jones, who took a similar all-expenses paid trip to the UAE’s coalition partner Saudi Arabia in April sponsored by the country’s parliament. According to the Register of Interests, Kevan Jones’s week in Riyadh cost the Saudi government more than £8,500 and allowed him to “deepen [his] understanding of Saudi Arabia.” Jones did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.
It seems unlikely that next week in the House of Commons, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan will be treated to a particularly stressful interrogation of allegations of war crimes by his country in Yemen.