Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates, has died at the age of 73.
As a modernist incarnate of the West, he is known for bringing the Gulf State closer to the United States and its allies.
He oversaw much of the country’s economic growth and bailed out its ailing debts Dubai during its financial crisis more than 10 years ago.
Sheikh Khalifa also helped finance the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, named after him.
He became president in 2004 – but suffered a stroke and emergency surgery a decade later and was no longer involved in the day-to-day affairs of governing the country.
Since then, he has rarely been seen in public.
During the last few years of his life, his half-brother, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi, became ruler and made major foreign policy decisions, such as joining the war Saudi Arabia leads in Yemen and has led an embargo on Qatar over the past few years.
Sheikh Mohammed said: “The UAE has lost its righteous son, leader of the ’empowerment phase’ and guardian of their blessed journey.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called Sheikh Khalifa “a true friend of the United States,” adding that the United States remains committed to its enduring friendship and cooperation with the UAE.
Vice President Kamala Harris also offered condolences.
Sheikh Mohammed is expected to announce the president
Relations between the Biden administration and the UAE have become strained due to the country’s refusal to join US efforts to isolate Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.
The UAE announced a 40-day period of mourning and a 3-day suspension of work for the government and private sector.
No details have been released about the nature of Sheikh Khalifa’s death or about who will replace him but Sheikh Mohammed is expected to announce the presidency.
The crown prince, who is also the deputy supreme commander of the armed forces, brought the UAE closer to Israel after the two countries normalized relations in 2020.
He has also battled the growing wave of Muslim politics around the region.