Birds of a feather: Tony Blair's love-in with Sisi
On Sunday, the former Middle East peace envoy met with the Egyptian strongman for several hours in Cairo, according to informed sources.
But the Egyptian presidency did not announce the visit, raising question marks about its purpose and Blair's role in the region and his personal ties to Sisi.
This is the 13th visit Blair is understood to have made to Cairo since July 2013, when Sisi took over following the coup he led against democratically elected Islamist President Mohamed Morsi - and the second visit since he stepped down as Quartet envoy.
To many analysts and observers, it is proof of an exceptional relationship between Blair and Sisi.
In 2014, The Guardian said Blair had been retained as a paid consultant by Sisi, but the former British prime minister's office denied the reports.
|This is the 13th visit Blair has made to Cairo since July 2013, when Sisi took over following the coup he led against democratically elected Islamist President Mohamed Morsi
|Click to enlarge
He later resigned his diplomatic post.
Although Blair repeatedly denied these reports, Egyptian diplomatic sources speaking on condition of anonymity told The New Arab there is a large degree of truth to them.
Blair and Sisi met multiple times outside Egypt, they said, without the meetings being announced. The two men met in China as well during Sisi's visit to Beijing in December 2014, and again in London in November 2015, the sources said.
"The relationship between them is closer to being a friendship, as Blair is seeking to launch new political initiatives in the Middle East and Africa on issues like energy, food, water and climate," the sources said.
Blair's latest visit to Cairo comes amid such a context, the sources added, pointing out that he left Cairo for Ethiopia to launch a new initiative for energy conservation there, together with African leaders.
Blair could also be involved in mediation efforts over the Nile water rights issue between Egypt and Ethiopia, the sources said, in light of his close personal relations to world leaders.
Blair's ties to dictators around the world are well established, including those with deceased Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. In 2014, he gave Kazakhstan's autocratic president advice on how to manage his image after the slaughter of unarmed civilians protesting against his regime.
In a letter to Nursultan Nazarbayev, obtained by The Telegraph in August 2014, Blair told the Kazakh president that the deaths of 14 protesters "tragic though they were, should not obscure the enormous progress" his country had made.
Mr Blair, the paper said, is paid millions of pounds a year to give advice to Nazarbayev through his private consultancy, Tony Blair Associates (TBA), which he set up after leaving Downing Street in 2007.