The President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, died on Friday.
The Ministry of Presidential Affairs announced the death of Khalifa, who was also ruler of The UAE’s wealthiest emirate, Abu Dhabi, but gave no details.
Khalifa, born in 1948, has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2014. Funeral prayers will be held, state news agency WAM said on Friday.
Khalifa was a pro-Western modernizer who had brought the Arab Gulf state closer to the United States and its allies.
“The UAE has lost its righteous son and leader of the ’empowerment phase’ and guardian of its blessed journey,” said his half-brother and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed on Twitter, praising Khalifa’s wisdom and generosity.< /p >
Mohammed, known as MbZ, has for years been the de facto ruler of the UAE, an OPEC oil producer and a major center of trade and tourism, h has sought to increase his political influence in the region and in the Expanding abroad.
MBZ is on the verge of becoming the new ruler of Abu Dhabi, which owns most of the UAE’s oil wealth and has held the presidency of the UAE Federation since the establishment of Abu Dhabi n by Khalifa’s father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, in 1971.
Under the Constitution, Vice President and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai, would act as President until the Federal Supreme Council, which brings together the rulers of the seven emirates, will convene within 30 days to elect a new president.
Diplomats and analysts expect MbZ to become the new president, reflecting Abu Dhabi’s power, the it already had, grew further solidified under Khalifa, who came to power in 2004.
Khalifa’s death comes at a time when Abu Dhabi’s relations with Washington are on the wane over perceived US withdrawal from security concerns of its allies Gulf were visibly tense.
“Not much will change in UAE foreign and domestic policy unless MbZ wants even less reason to seek consensus with Dubai and other Emirates,” tweeted Cinzia Bianco, wis Research Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
MbZ led a Middle East realignment that created a new anti-Iran alliance with Israel and fought a rising tide of political Islam in the region.
US President Joe Biden described Khalifa as a “true partner and friend of the United States” and said in a statement that the US would continue to strengthen its ties with the UAE.
The UAE established ties with Israel in 2020, and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said, “The legacy and great deeds of Sheikh Khalifa were greatly appreciated in Israel.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, whose country often has strained relations with in the United Arab Emirates sent a letter of condolences to his Emirati counterpart, Iranian state media said.
At home, Emirati national Ali Al Khatri said Khalifa w earth will be remembered for his push to develop the country, which has a population of around 10 million, most of them foreign workers.
“We will remember him as our father,” said Khatri, 32 , told Reuters in Abu Dhabi.
The UAE announced a 40-day period of mourning with flags flying at half-mast and a three-day suspension of work in all public and private sector organizations.