New UAE president meets Macron as world leaders stream in

Bol News  |  May 15, 2022

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE’s new president, met with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on Sunday as international leaders descended on the oil-rich Gulf state to pay tribute to his late predecessor.

Macron extended his sympathies to the leader called “MBZ” following the death of his half-brother Sheikh Khalifa on Friday after a protracted illness, while on his first foreign trip since his second term began last week.

Macron, the first Western leader to pay his respects, will be followed by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, US Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Israel’s president and the king of Spain, among a long list of dignitaries.

The United Arab Emirates has begun wielding increased influence in the Middle East and further afield due to its wealth, oil resources and strategic location.

MBZ has been quietly running the country since 2014 when Sheikh Khalifa, his 73-year-old half-brother, was sidelined by a stroke. The cause of his death was not announced.

Presidents and monarchs from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Oman and Tunisia and Sudan’s de facto ruler were among the leaders to offer their condolences on Saturday.

On Sunday, Qatar’s emir, Bahrain’s king and the Palestinian, German and Indonesian presidents were among more than 20 senior officials expected.

Macron, in his talks with Sheikh Mohamed, 61, expressed his “sincere condolences to his family and the people” over Sheikh Khalifa’s death, according to the French presidential office.

“The United Arab Emirates are a strategic partner for France, a fact that is borne out by the degree of our cooperation in areas as varied as defence, culture and education,” it added.

 

– Flags at half-mast –

 

Flags are at half-mast around the country, which is observing 40 days of mourning for Sheikh Khalifa who took over after the death of his father, founding president Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan, in 2004.

Sheikh Mohamed was chosen to head the government of the desert state in a unanimous vote Saturday by leaders of the country’s seven emirates, as had been widely expected.

MBZ’s close ally, Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, called to congratulate the new president and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted to commend his “dynamic and visionary leadership”.

Blinken and Harris were due Monday for a visit that could help repair ties strained since President Joe Biden replaced Donald Trump in the White House.

The two sides have been at odds over Abu Dhabi’s refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Washington’s reopening of nuclear talks with Iran, long accused by Gulf states of creating regional chaos.

Both Macron and Johnson were 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.

The wealthy United Arab Emirates has emerged as a leader in a transformed Middle East, strengthening connections with Israel and joining the Saudi-led war in Yemen against Iran-backed rebels.

During Macron’s previous visit in December, the UAE signed a 14-billion-euro order for 80 Rafale jets.

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