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Vice President Kamala Harris will lead a high-profile delegation of US officials to pay respects to late Emirati President Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan this week, President Joe Biden announced on Sunday.
Khalifa, a West-friendly leader who brought the United Arab Emirates closer to the United States, died on Friday at the age of 73. The UAE’s Ministry of Presidential Affairs announced his passing but gave no additional details.
The American delegation will travel to Abu Dhabi, the richest emirate which Khalifa led, ‘to pay respects’ over the president’s death on Monday, May 16.
Traveling with Harris are two of Biden’s most senior Cabinet officials, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, as well as Climate Envoy John Kerry and CIA Director William Burns.
The US’s interim Chargé d’Affaires at the Embassy in Abu Dhabi, Sean Murphy, will also attend.
Harris’ national security advisor Philip Gordon, National Security Council Middle East and North Africa Coordinator Brett McGurk, and the NSC’s Senior Director for the Middle East and North Africa Barbara Leaf round out the list.
They departed on Sunday afternoon, according to Harris’ schedule.
The vice president will also meet with the UAE’s new president, Khalifa’s brother Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, while in the Gulf state.
Vice President Kamala Harris is leading a delegation to Abu Dhabi to express condolences for its late leader’s passing and meet with its new president to reaffirm the US commitment to partners in the Middle East
The senior delegation includes two of Biden’s top Cabinet secretaries, Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) and Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin (right)
Climate Envoy John Kerry is another high-profile official in the delegation, which also includes CIA Director William Burns
Her press secretary Kirsten Allen announced the details on Saturday.
‘Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on May 16 to lead a Presidential Delegation and offer condolences on behalf of the Biden-Harris Administration and the American people on the passing of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan,’ Allen’s statement read.
‘She will meet with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates.’
During the trip Harris looks to pay respects to the late leader and ‘will underscore the strength of the partnership between our countries and our desire to further deepen our ties in the coming months and years,’ Allen stated.
Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a West-friendly leader who brought the United Arab Emirates closer to the United States, died on Friday at the age of 73
The visit comes as the normally solid strategic partnership between the US and UAE was rocked by tensions were recently exacerbated by the oil crisis spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
A senior Emirati diplomat said in March that the Eastern European conflict was testing the two partner states’ relationship.
The oil-rich nation’s mounting concerns about the American government’s commitment have come as Abu Dhabi strengthened its ties with Beijing and Moscow.
The UAE recently abstained from voting on a US-led United Nations resolution to condemn Russia’s attack.
The Emirati reportedly also criticized the US response to a Houthi attack in Abu Dhabi that killed three civilians in January as ‘timid.’
But senior US officials appear to be hopeful that the start of a new presidency in the Middle Eastern nation could offer a new chapter to revive the close relationship.
Biden hailed Khalifa as a ‘true partner and friend of the United States’ on Friday after the leader’s passing.
‘On behalf of the American people, I offer my condolences to Sheikh Khalifa’s family and all Emiratis as they mourn this great loss. We will honor his memory by continuing to strengthen the longstanding ties between the governments and people of the United States and the United Arab Emirates,’ the US president said.
In a separate statement on Saturday, Biden called the country’s new president a ‘longtime friend’ of his.
‘I congratulate my long-time friend Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on his election as President of the United Arab Emirates,’ the president said.
He was rarely seen in public after suffering a stroke in 2014 (pictured with George W. Bush in January 2008)
‘As I told Sheikh Mohammed yesterday during our phone call, the United States is determined to honor the memory of the late president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan by continuing to strengthen the strategic partnership between our countries over the coming months and years.’
Biden added that he had met Mohammed ‘several times’ as Barack Obama’s vice president when the new ruler was the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.
‘I look forward to working with Sheikh Mohammed to build from this extraordinary foundation to further strengthen the bonds between our countries and peoples,’ Biden concluded.
In his own call with Mohammed on Saturday, Pentagon chief Austin ‘expressed sadness’ over Khalifa’s recent passing and reaffirmed US commitment ‘to strengthening the important defense partnership that expanded under His Highness Sheikh Khalifa’s presidency.’
Secretary of State Antony Blinken also praised Mohammed’s ascension.
‘During his time as Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed has been an important partner and valued friend of the United States,’ Blinken said on Saturday.
‘We warmly congratulate His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on assuming the role of President of the United Arab Emirates after succeeding our steadfast friend His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.’