A Lebanese-American businessman with close ties the United Arab Emirates crown prince organised a meeting of Arab leaders on a yacht in the Red Sea three years ago and proposed to start an “elite group” that would supersede the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), according to a news report.
George Nader’s name has surfaced in recent weeks as a key witness in US special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s probe into alleged foreign influence on the Donald Trump administration.
According to a Middle East Eye report on Monday, Nader was the key player in bringing Arab leaders together onto the yacht in late 2015 to discuss forming the new group involving six Middle East countries: Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan and Libya.
While on the Red Sea excursion, Nader proposed the new grouping of countries could replace the GCC and Arab League, MEE quoted two unidentified sources familiar with the meeting as saying.
“If you agree to this, I will lobby for this in Washington,” Nader reportedly told those attending.
On the yacht were the UAE’s Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nayan, also known as MBZ; Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, often referred to as MBS; Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi; Bahrain’s Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, and King Abdullah of Jordan.
Libya did not have a representative.
The plan received a positive response from all aboard, the report said.
The Arab League has 22 member states.
Originally looking at Russia’s alleged influence during the 2016 US election, Mueller’s investigation is now attempting to find out if the Emiratis were involved in trying to influence US policy, the New York Times reported earlier this month.
Nader, 58, is reportedly a close adviser to the UAE’s MBZ. One source with knowledge of their relationship told The Atlantic that Nader was the crown prince’s “messenger”.