Swire’s Conservative Middle East Council accused of bias towards Gulf Arab states

In a long article about the group, whose chairman Hugo Swire receives a salary of £2,000 per month, a number of allegations are made about CMEC, a couple of which mention Swire by name:

“CMEC’s rapprochement with the UAE extends beyond the Gulf to the country’s ambitions in north Africa. There it has become a key supporter of the Dubai’s controversial foreign policy towards Libya, backing Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, a notorious warlord and one-time ally of Muammar Gaddafi, rather than the internationally recognised government in Tripoli.” …”


…”Some of CMEC’s donors also seem to have links to Libya’s former leaders.

Marwan Salloum is registered as a director of CC Property Company Ltd and is also owner of Consolidated Construction Company, the largest engineering firm in the Middle East which has interests in Libya.

Electoral Commission records show that CC Property Company Ltd made donations of £30,000 ($42,000) to CMEC in March 2017 and £17,000 ($24,400) in donations in 2011 and 2013.

Salloum is a former close friend and business associate of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the deposed leader. The pair reportedly enjoy each others company. During the revolution, photos emerged of Salloum partying with Saif on a luxury yacht in Brazil.

Crucially, Haftar is also supportive of Saif and once said of him: “If he wants to play a political role, there’s no problem,” also adding: “I have nothing against him, on the contrary, he is welcome.”

In June 2017, Saif was released from prison. He now lives under the protection of Haftar, despite being wanted for war crimes by the ICC.

The impact of the CMEC report on Libya is hard to gauge. Hundreds of such reports are published around Westminster each year. But such lobbying can have consequences.”


“The ties between Bahrain and CMEC go back further still. Each year, CMEC organises a delegation of MPs to attend the Manama Dialogue conferences, which take place under the auspices of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). At least 30 percent of the think tank’s budget comes from the Bahraini government, according to rights group Bahrain Watch.

The conference is an international forum for discussions of foreign affairs, but also acts as a soft power initiative for the Bahraini elite. According to Bahrain Watch, CMEC is “a central player in the visits” each year. Kwarteng is the only Conservative MP to have attended all Manama Dialogue conferences since 2011.


“Perhaps the most generous CMEC donor has been the property developer and financier David Rowland. A regular donor to the Conservative Party, he has given more than £465,000 ($660,000) towards CMEC’s running costs, including £60,000 ($85,000) in October 2017.

Rowland has close ties with the leaderships of both the UAE and Saudi Arabia and is presently in the process of creating a joint banking venture with the sovereign wealth fund of Abu Dhabi, Mubadala.

Rowland has also helped to secure multi-billion pound defence deals between British firms and the Saudi Arabian government. In 2011, Rowland offered his private jets to Prince Andrew for free, while the British royal visited Saudi Arabia to help secure deals for BAE Systems.”


“A second key donor with links to Saudi Arabia is Rosemary Said, wife of Wafic, a billionaire and key fixer in the al-Yamamah deal which delivered billions in British military equipment manufactured and maintained by BAE Systems to the Saudi armed forces from the mid-1980s onwards under the government of then-prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

Rosemary Said donated £50,000 ($71,150) to CMEC in September 2016, with further donations to CMEC of £20,000 ($28,460) in 2015 and £100,000 ($142,310) in 2008.

In June 2016, she also made a £10,000 ($14,230) donation to CMEC chairman Hugo Swire, which helped him get re-elected as an MP..”


“… the group was quiet on the most momentous decision to affect the Palestinian dispute of late – Donald Trump’s order on 6 December 2017 to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

CMEC is yet to issue any formal statement, other than a tweet reporting the news on their Twitter feed.

A second tweet showed former chairman, Alan Duncan, now in his capacity as a government foreign office minister, giving a TV interview expressing the government’s disapproval. … But from the other CMEC officers there has been silence, including Docherty – now serving as vice chairman of CMEC.

There has also been silence from Kwarteng, despite publicising his CMEC report on the Libya migration crisis earlier in the year; and Hugo Swire, chairman of CMEC, who did not respond to the news on his otherwise active Twitter feed, even though he was attending a speech by Johnson, specifically about the Middle East, on the same day.”


“Swire told MEE it is wrong to think that CMEC has failed to stand up for Palestinians, pointing to the fact that the organisation’s affiliation to the Conservative Party made it subject to very strict funding rules.

He also said that CMEC had not acted as an advocate for British support for Haftar in Libya. “We don’t have a corporate view on these things. We do not lobby. We are merely a facilitator to encourage Tory MPs to get a better understanding of the Middle East as a whole.”


Note: this entry was amended to Conservative Middle East COUNCIL.

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