UAE President MBZ meets Macron; world leaders offer condolences

Heads of state arrive in the United Arab Emirates following the death of former leader Sheikh Khalifa and to meet new President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The UAE’s new President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan met with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron as other world leaders continue to arrive in Abu Dhabi to pay tribute to his late brother, the former ruler.

Macron, who was re-elected this month, expressed his condolences to Sheikh Mohammed following the death of his half-brother Sheikh Khalifa, who died on Friday following a long illness.

Several Arab leaders including Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi came on Saturday to pay respects. Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, whose father King Salman entered hospital a week ago, sent a delegation.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrived later Sunday to offer condolences, along with other world leaders including Israel’s President Isaac Herzog. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was also due to arrive.

Johnson said his visit to mourn Sheikh Khalifa showed “the deep ties which unite our countries will continue through our cooperation and friendship”.

US President Joe Biden, whose administration has had fraught ties with the UAE and Saudi Arabia, will be represented by Vice President Kamila Harris who will lead a high-profile delegation that is due to visit on Monday. The delegation will include the US secretary of state, secretary of defence and CIA director, among others.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II, left, offers condolences to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan [Mohamed al-Hammadi/Ministry of Presidential Affairs via AFP]

“He was respected by all for the values of peace, openness and dialogue that he embodied,” Macron wrote on Twitter of Sheikh Khalifa, expressing “full support” for the ascension of his half-brother Sheikh Mohammed after rulers in the federation unanimously appointed him as president.

Sheikh Mohammed, the UAE’s longtime de facto ruler during Sheikh Khalifa’s illness, was chosen to lead the desert state in a unanimous vote by leaders of the country’s seven emirates on Saturday.

Often known by his initials MBZ, he took a leading role after Sheikh Khalifa retreated from public view in 2014 when he had surgery after a stroke. The cause of his death was not announced.

Both Macron and Johnson are making their second visits to Abu Dhabi in recent months. Johnson’s visit in March failed to convince the UAE and Saudi Arabia to pump more oil after Russia’s war in Ukraine sent markets into turmoil.

UAE relations with the US have become strained under Biden, with the two sides at odds over Abu Dhabi’s close ties with Russia and Washington’s reopening of nuclear talks with Iran, long accused by Gulf states of creating regional chaos.

The wealthy UAE has emerged as a leader of a reshaped Middle East, forging ties with Israel and joining a Saudi-led war against Iran-backed rebels in Yemen.

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