A second source said he believed the meeting was not about Russia. That source, a former intelligence official with close ties to Prince and the UAE, said the subject of the meeting was Middle East policy, to cover Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Iran.
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A senior Trump administration official called the suggestion of a Trump-Putin back-channel "ridiculous." Asked about the matter, UAE Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef al Otaiba told NBC News, "No comment." Pressed on whether he could provide any context on any basis, he said, "Not on this one."
The meeting took place around Jan. 11, The Post reported and NBC News sources confirmed — nine days before Trump's inauguration — in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean.
The Post said the UAE agreed to broker the meeting in part to explore whether Russia could be persuaded to curtail its relationship with Iran, including in Syria, a Trump administration objective that would likely require major concessions to Moscow on U.S. sanctions.
Prince, who founded the Blackwater firm that became a private security provider for the U.S. government in Iraq, is the brother of Betsy DeVos, the education secretary in the Trump administration.
He was seen in the Trump transition offices in New York in December. Prince contributed $250,000 last year to support the Trump campaign and pro-Trump super-PACs, according to the Post.
The UAE has been boosting its investments in the Seychelles, Comoros, and other Indian Ocean nations. The president of the Seychelles has a close relationship with the UAE, which is funding a new international airport there.
The United States used to fly Predator drones out of the Seychelles but they were moved to other continental countries to bring them closer to targets. The U.S. and the Seychelles recently participated in a anti-piracy and counter-terrorism exercise called "Cutlass Express" early this year.
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