New Delhi: UAE President and ruler of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan passed away on Friday, state media said. The 73-year-old had been battling illness for several years.
“The Ministry of Presidential Affairs has mourned to the UAE people, Arab and Islamic nations and the world the death of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan,” the official WAM news agency tweeted.
The ministry announced 40 days of mourning, with flags at half-mast from Friday and work suspended in the public and private sector for the first three days.
The president of the oil-rich Gulf state, who was rarely seen in public, is likely to be replaced by his brother, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, who was already seen as the UAE’s de facto ruler.
Sheikh Khalifa took over as the UAE’s second president in November 2004, succeeding his father as the 16th ruler of Abu Dhabi, the richest of the federation’s seven emirates.
“The Emirates has lost its virtuous son and leader of the ‘stage of empowerment’ and the trustee of its blessed journey,” Mohammed bin Zayed tweeted on Friday.
“His stances, achievements, wisdom, generosity and initiatives are in every corner of the nation.. Khalifa bin Zayed, my brother… may God have mercy on you and grant you access to paradise.”
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan tweeted condoling the death of the UAE President, stateing that Sheikh Khalifa always kept cordial relations with Kerala.
“Deeply saddened by the passing of the UAE President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan who has always kept cordial relations with Kerala. He was a visionary leader who played a key role in modernising the Emirates. His contributions will be remembered forever,” tweeted Mr Vijayan.
Union minister Piyush Goyal and Congress MP Rahul Gandhi and Kerala MP Shashi Tharoor also paying tributes from India.
Sheikh Khalifa, who had no formal higher education, led the UAE as Dubai emerged as a tourism and trade hub and Abu Dhabi pumped oil as a key OPEC player.
He came to the rescue of Dubai when it was hit by the global financial crisis in 2009, extending a multi-billion-dollar lifeline to the debt-laden emirate.
The Arab world’s second-biggest economy behind Saudi Arabia has also begun to wield growing political influence, filling a space ceded by traditional powers such as Egypt, Iraq and Syria.
The country of 10 million also joined military campaigns in Libya and Yemen and broke ranks with much of the Arab world to establish ties with Israel in 2020.