World leaders travel to UAE to pay tribute to late leader

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — An array of presidents and prime ministers continued to descend on the United Arab Emirates from around the world on Sunday to pay their respects to the federation’s late leader. They also came to greet his successor, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a shining sign of Abu Dhabi’s influence in Western and Arab capitals.

The first Western leader to fly to the oil-rich capital of Abu Dhabi was French President Emmanuel Macron. He met Sheikh Mohammed on Sunday to pay tribute to Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the country’s leader, who died on Friday at the age of 73.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was due to arrive later on Sunday to offer his condolences, along with other leaders including Israeli President Isaac Herzog, after the two countries opened official relations in 2020.

A US delegation led by Vice President Kamala Harris is due to visit the United Arab Emirates on Monday, an attempt to show support after relations between the countries have recently been strained.

Arab heads of state, including their close allies Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and King Abdullah II of Jordan, traveled to the United Arab Emirates on Saturday.


“He was respected by all for the values ​​of peace, openness and dialogue he embodied,” Macron wrote on Twitter of Sheikh Khalifa, expressing his “full support” for his half-brother’s rise. Sheikh Mohammed after the unanimous nomination of the leaders of the federation. him as president.

As Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed has been the country’s de facto ruler since Sheikh Khalifa suffered a stroke in 2014. He has transformed the tiny UAE into one of the most influential states, wielding military power and excessive trade in the Middle East and Africa. .

Even though the country has found itself embroiled in the years-long bloody conflict in Yemen and a chaotic proxy war in Libya, it has positioned itself as a shrewd and reliable partner in Western capitals.

Paris and Abu Dhabi have increasingly aligned in recent years, sharing a deep distrust of Islamist movements like the Muslim Brotherhood across the region, including in Turkey and Libya.

France has opened a major overseas naval base in Abu Dhabi. French fighter jets and personnel are also stationed at a major facility outside the Emirati capital. The two governments have jointly built a gleaming branch of the Louvre Museum in the emirate.

During Macron’s visit to Dubai last December, France landed its biggest overseas order for its Rafale fighter jet with the United Arab Emirates – an $18 billion deal that came as part of a a planned U.S. sale of advanced F-35 fighter jets to the UAE in part because of U.S. concerns. on the Emirates’ relations with China.

Sheikh Mohammed’s assertive foreign policy was on full display as allied Arab leaders rushed to the capital to express their grief over Sheikh Khalifa’s death and congratulate them on his formal ascension to power. Among the former was el-Sissi, the Egyptian general who, with Gulf Arab support, toppled an elected but divisive Islamist government in 2013.

Emirati-backed Tunisian President Kais Saied, who has gained near absolute power in the country since the prime minister was ousted last year, also flew in to pay his respects, alongside the president and prime minister. Iraqi minister.

Sudanese Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the general who led the coup in the strategic East African country last year, has paid frequent visits to his main backer, Sheikh Mohammed. He posted footage on social media on Saturday as he sprinted down the stairs to board his plane bound for Abu Dhabi to pay his respects to the late president.

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