After the meeting, Harris told reporters that he had made the visit on behalf of President Joe Biden and the American people to “extend our condolences to the UAE as a friend and partner” and to congratulate the new President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh. Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Sheikh Khalifa, whose modernization policies helped transform his country into a regional power, died on Friday at the age of 73.
Harris said he reiterated the United States’ commitment to “security and prosperity in the region” and spoke of “how the American people have benefited from this relationship.”
The Vice President was accompanied on a high-profile visit by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, CIA Director Bill Burns, and John Kerry, the President’s Special Envoy for Climate Change.
The White House said Shaun Murphy, the US embassy in Abu Dhabi’s charge d’affaires, would also be present at the visit; Phil Gordon, Harris’ national security adviser; Brett McGark, National Security Council Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa; And Barbara Leaf, Senior Director, NSC Middle East and North Africa.
The inclusion of other top officials from the Biden administration in the delegation indicates a recent US effort to defuse tensions between the two countries, which escalated after a drone strike in Abu Dhabi by Houthi rebels in January that killed three people. The United Arab Emirates has pressed the Biden administration to rename the Houthis as a terrorist organization after Biden revoked the Trump-era title.
Biden called the late UAE leader “a true partner and friend of the United States.” “The United States is committed to honoring the memory of the late President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan by strengthening the strategic partnership between our countries in the coming months and years,” he said in a statement.
According to the UAE’s official news agency, his brother Sheikh Mohammed has been unanimously elected President of the country’s Federal Supreme Council. Sheikh Mohammed was widely seen as the de facto leader of the UAE, managing day-to-day affairs for the Gulf state, where Sheikh Khalifa’s role was largely formal as he had a stroke and underwent surgery in 2014.