Azerbaijan: Tony Blair's Baku Appearance Stirs Controversy
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was allegedly paid an estimated 90,000 British pounds (about $146, 673) for a 1,000-word speech he delivered at a contract signing ceremony with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development for a methanol plant in Azerbaijan, British media reported on December 7. Sources for the estimate were not provided.
Blair's visit, which included a meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, was allegedly sponsored by an Azerbaijani millionaire Nizami Piriyev, whose AzMeCo company is building the methanol plant. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is helping to finance the $300 million project.
The Independent, a British broadsheet, commented that the trip "appeared to blur the line between [Blair's] status as a private individual and a former prime minister campaigning for British investment in foreign countries." A Blair spokesperson told the newspaper that the trip was a "one-off engagement."
Contrary to Blair's espousal of clean energy principles, the plant will produce methanol using natural gas, a fossil fuel, the paper reported. The trip has sparked a fierce outcry from opposition British politicians, who charge that Blair is unduly cashing in on his status as a former prime minister.