UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan dies at age 73

A period of mourning will begin effective immediately for 40 days, where flags will be at half-mast, the Presidential Affairs Ministry said.

 UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan has passed away on Friday at the age of 73.

A period of mourning will begin effective immediately for 40 days, where flags will be at half-mast, the Presidential Affairs Ministry said. Work in ministries and government departments on federal and local levels, as well as in the private sector, will also be suspended for three days effective immediately.

Khalifa bin Zayed is the eldest son of Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding leader of the UAE. As the 16th emir of Abu Dhabi and president of the UAE, he has been the leader of the country since 2004 when he was first elected president - the second in the UAE's history. He has served in that capacity for over 17 years.

As per UAE law, Khalifa bin Zayed will be succeeded temporarily by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the emir of Dubai and vice president of the UAE, until until the federal council which groups the rulers of the seven emirates meets within 30 days to elect a new president.

"With hearts wracked by sadness and with souls that believe in God's decree and destiny, we mourn the patron of our journey and the president of our state, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, for the people of the Emirates, the Arab and Islamic peoples, and for the world," Mohammed bin Rashid tweeted.

During his time in charge, Khalifa bin Zayed has helped transform the UAE into a thriving regional power and a major business and technology hub. It was also under his administration that the UAE normalized ties with Israel in the historic Abraham Accords.

However, in 2014, he suffered a stroke and, while stable, most authority was given over to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, his half-brother, also known as MBZ.

"The Emirates lost its righteous son, the leader of the 'empowerment phase' and the trustee of its blessed journey," MBZ mourned on Twitter.

Other regional leaders expressed their condolences.

"We have lost a dear brother and an outstanding leader who inherited his wisdom from his late great father Sheikh Zayed an dedicated his life to serving his country and the Arab and Islamic nations," Jordan's King Abdullah said.

"With sincere sadness and sorrow, I mourn one of the most precious men and one of the greatest leaders... who passed away after a long journey of giving, in which he gave a lot to his country and his nation until the Emirates became a model for development and modernity in our region and the world," Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tweeted that he received the news of the Emirati leader's death "with great sadness and sorrow" and offered his "sincere condolences" to the Emirati people.

The Gaza-based Palestinian terrorist group Hamas also extended condolences to the UAE on the president's passing.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, through his Arabic-language spokesperson Ofir Gendelman, expressed his condolences to the UAE and to MBZ on the president's passing.

"This is a great loss for our friends in the UAE and for the whole region," Israeli President Isaac Herzog said in a statement. "Sheikh Khalifa's bold leadership contributed so much to the advancement  of the UAE and its people and to the growing partnership between our countries and is a great legacy for his successors. His life's work pushed the Middle East to new horizons of prosperity and cooperation."

"In the name of the State of Israel, we send our deepest condolences to the leadership and people of the UAE on the passing of HH President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan," Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked tweeted. 

"May his memory be a blessing."

History is determined by human beings. it is determined by people who know history but are willing to change it. it is determined by people who prefer the future over the past," noted Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. 

"Such a leader was Sheikh Khalifa and his legacy is partnership and peace and brotherhood between peoples. A brave leader who looked forward and worked for the future. A leader who continued the path of the founding father of the Emirates Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan."

 UAE Embassy in Tel Aviv (credit: UAE Embassy in Israel) UAE Embassy in Tel Aviv (credit: UAE Embassy in Israel)

He added: "This is a sad day for all who share and believe in the path of peace. We will continue to work together for our people and in memory of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan."

UAE Jewish community's statement

The Jewish community of the UAE expressed "profound sadness" on Al Nahyan's passing. The community sent their condolences to the Al Nahyan's family.

The community also said in its statement that under his leadership, their community "has experienced unprecedented flourishing among the many communities of the UAE."

"May the memory and legacy of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan always be a blessing," the community concluded.