Tony Blair has ‘friendly’ meeting with Italy’s far-right leader Matteo Salvini

The former PM travelled to the far-right leader's official residence in Rome

Jon Stone
Europe Correspondent
Wednesday 05 September 2018 13:35 BST
Tony Blair says Brexit could lead UK down 'dark path'

Tony Blair has visited Italy for a “friendly” meeting with the leader of the Italian far-right, Matteo Salvini.

Mr Salvini posted a picture of himself on social media with the former British PM, both beaming with smiles at the minister’s official residence in Rome.

Mr Blair has been working as a consultant for the autocratic Azerbaijani regime, and it is believed that the pair used the meeting to discuss the extension of a controversial gas pipeline from Azerbaijan to southern Italy.

Tony Blair and Matteo Salvini meet at the latter's official ministerial residence in Rome (Matteo Salvini/Twitter)

“Today at [the Palace of] the Viminale with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to talk about immigration, Brexit and energy policies,” Mr Salvini said in a post on social media accompanying a photo of the pair.

“I proposed a conference on development and investment for Africa, a friendly and positive meeting, we reciprocally appreciated the concrete approach.”

A spokesperson for Tony Blair declined to comment further when approached by The Independent about the nature and content of the meeting.

Mr Salvini’s far-right League party formed a coalition government earlier this year with anti-establishment populists the Five Star Movement.

"a friendly and positive meeting"

Matteo Salvini on his meeting with Tony Blair

As interior minister and deputy prime minister of Italy he has been responsible for turning away refugee ships and launching a "census" of Roma gypsies, as well as being blamed for a sharp rise in racially motivated attacks in recent months.

Since leaving office Mr Blair has worked for a number of autocratic regimes with poor human rights records, not limited to Azerbaijan. He has also done work for the government of Kazakhstan, and advised the Saudi Arabian government.

In 2011 during the Arab Spring he endorsed embattled Egyptian autocrat Hosni Mubarak, describing the president as “immensely courageous and a force for good” days after his security forces killed protesters in Suez.

Last year Azerbaijan intensified a crackdown on the right to free expression following large-scale revelations of corruption in the country’s governing class, according to Amnesty International.

The NGO says independent news outlets in the country were blocked and their owners arrested, adding that critics of the government face politically motivated prosecution and imprisonment following unfair trials, while suspicious deaths in custody are not effectively investigated. The country also arbitrarily arrests and mistreats LGBT people.

In elections held this year the Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev was re-elected for a seven-year term with over 86 per cent of the vote. The OSCE, which observed the election, said it was undemocratic and that there was “widespread disregard for mandatory procedures, a lack of transparency, and numerous serious irregularities, including ballot box stuffing”.

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