Conservative Middle East Council

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The Conservative Middle East Council (CMEC) 'exists to ensure that conservative MPs and Peers understand the Middle East'.

By bringing Conservative parliamentarians together with leading experts, CMEC promotes the discussion of UK foreign policy in the Middle East, and seeks to ensure that this policy in grounded in a deep understanding of the complexities of the region.
By taking delegations to countries across the region, CMEC allows Conservative parliamentarians to gain a unique, first-hand understanding of the Middle East.

Party Conference Fringe Events

Conservative 2014

  • 28th October
What Next for Iraq? Chaired by The Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP, speakers: Rory Stewart MP, Shashank Joshi, HE Faik Nerweyi and Kwasi Kwarteng MP.[1]


  • In December 2014, the CMEC invited Prince Turki Al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief from 1977 to 2001 and a former ambassador for the kingdom; to deliver the group’s Annual Policy Lecture. The speech, which covered a range of regional security issues, included a denial that Saudi and UAE troops had taken part in the crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Bahrain in 2011. Al-Faisal also claimed that the kingdom of Saud wanted sectarianism 'to stop as quickly as possible.' None of the questions after the speech, which was very well received, raised the issue of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. [2]
  • Alan Duncan and Wafic Said are known to be close; in 2012 the MP attended the wedding of Said’s daughter Rasha in a ceremony held at the Palace of Versailles near Paris. [2]



  • Leo Docherty - former director who provided the overall strategic direction of CMEC and manages the CMEC team. Prior to joining CMEC Leo was employed 'as an analyst and country manager for a leading strategic communication firm specializing in field research in conflict zones'.
  • Adam Takla Research and Events Officer – 'Adam was born in Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman and graduated with a 1st Class Degree in International History and Politics from the University of Leeds in June 2007.


  • President – The Rt Hon Nicholas Soames MP - Soames was elected as the Honorary President of CMEC in 2007 and previously served as its Chairman from 1997 to 2003.
  • Former Chairman – The Baroness Morris of Bolton
  • Chairman - Sir Alan Duncan MP - since November 2015
  • Deputy Chairman – Adam Holloway MP - since June 2010
  • Vice-Chairman – Tobias Ellwood MP - since June 2010
  • Vice-Chairman – Dr Phillip Lee MP


On the Palestinian conflict

Outgoing Chairwoman Baroness Morris wrote, in 2015:

'It is no secret, especially given our history, where CMEC stands on the question of Palestine. The fundamental truth is that until the Palestinians are freed from the injustice and degradation of occupation, with a viable and truly sovereign state that guarantees the human rights of its population, the conflict will continue. Our desire for the recognition of Palestine and the formation of a viable Palestinian state is no less informed by our belief that it also represents the best interests of Israel and the best guarantee of Israel’s peaceful and prosperous place in the Middle East.' [3]

The new Chairman, Sir Alan Duncan, added the next day:

'Conservatives should be unequivocal in supporting the right of Israel to exist and to defend itself. That, however, is a statement not a policy. It is also not a carte blanche to the Israeli government to act with impunity. Being a friend of Israel is not incompatible with being a friend of Palestine.' [4]

In 2009 Peter Oborne and James Jones contended that the Conservative Middle East Council worked hard to balance against another Conservative Party group, the Conservative Friends of Israel's, influence and pro-Israel agenda. [5]

On Saudi Arabia

The incoming Chairman Alan Duncan MP spoke in December 2015 in the House of Commons against Justice Secretary Michael Gove’s decision to withdraw a contract with the Saudi prison authorities. Duncan claimed that the decision was not based on 'legitimate concerns' on the part of his fellow Tory MP but was driven instead by a 'rather caustic personal view of Saudi Arabia.' [2] He later wrote, in an article for ConservativeHome:

'Saudi Arabia itself has presented us over the past few months with a question about whether our foreign policy should be to engage or to shun them in response to its hard line judiciary and use of capital punishment.[...] While we should certainly not condone, we should be aware that aggressively condemning is no guarantee of reform either.' [4]


Business interests in the Middle East

A January 2016 Middle East Monitor investigation revealed that nearly all of the CMEC’s financial backers have strong business interests in Saudi Arabia and its smaller Gulf allies, ranging from defence to manufacturing to energy resources:

  • David Rowland - nearly £350,000 since 2010: a controversial British business tycoon, political financier and Monaco tax exile. Involved closely in helping 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, as he visited Saudi Arabia to help secure deals for BAE Systems.
  • Rosemary Said (wife of Syrian-Saudi businessman Wafic Said) - £20,000 in 2015 ; £100,000 in 2008. Wafic Said, who was banned from making donations to Westminster political parties as he does not hold British citizenship, is reported to have played a key role as a 'fixer' in arranging the controversial Al-Yamamah deals between BAE Systems and the Saudi Arabian government, using his extensive network of contacts within the kingdom.
  • Khalid Said (son of of Syrian-Saudi businessman Wafic Said) - £12,500.
  • Assem Allam - £15,000 in 2014, £15,000 in 2015: Labour Party supporter. His equipment manufacturing business, Allam Marine, has made him a multi-millionaire; it exports heavily to Saudi Arabia, the most lucrative power generator market in the Middle East.
  • Abdul Majid Jafar - £15,000 in 2014: His company, Crescent Petroleum, is the oldest of its type in the Middle East, and has extensive interests in the UAE, Bahrain and Iraq, with a smaller footprint in Saudi Arabia.
  • International Hospitals Group - £40,000 in 2014/2015 : Construction firm that has secured several multi-million pound contracts with the government of Saudi Arabia, and received as a result 'various letters of acknowledgement [i.e. references]… from senior Royal Princes' within the House of Saud, with which the company enjoys a strong business relationship.
  • Bell Pottinger - £18,000: London-based PR firm which has represented Saudi Arabia in a public affairs and advocacy role. Its other clients have included the Bahrain government; the company declined to comment when contacted by the newspaper, although a spokesperson for the CMEC said that the donation had been made because Bell Pottinger 'supported the aims of the organisation at the time.' [2]


The Director of the Conservative Middle East Council, Leo Docherty, told Middle East Monitor that donations had not influenced decision-making within the group. 'No donor has given us conditions,' he insisted, 'but any big business person in the Middle East has strong interests in Saudi Arabia. We see ourselves as making the case for a constructive relationship, but we acknowledge it’s not perfect.'

The CMEC head claimed that a 'huge amount of pressure' was being put on the Gulf States to reform. 'Anyone who has a long-standing business relationship with the Gulf States, their job is to support these reforming tendencies'. [2]



Address:55 Tufton Street



  1. What next for Iraq? CMEC, accessed 14 October 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Alastair Sloan, Revealed: The Gulf business tycoons backing the Conservative Middle East Council, Middle East Monitor, January 27, 2016. Accessed 5 October 2016.
  3. Broness Morris, Baroness Morris: The Conservative Middle East Council is more important than ever, Conservative Home, October 26, 2015. Accessed 05 October 2016.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Sir Alan Duncan, Sir Alan Duncan MP: We need greater understanding of, and better policy towards, the Middle East, ConservativeHome, October 27, 2015. Accessed 05 October 2016.
  5. PETER OBORNE and JAMES JONES, The pro-Israel lobby in Britain: full text, Open Democracy, 13 November 2009. Accessed 05 October 2016.