UAE strongman Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed named new president

  • MbZ becomes president at a time of tension with the United States
  • He led a realignment in the Middle East, forging ties with Israel
  • The UAE has also deepened its ties with Russia and China
  • Economic development, a foreign policy priority

DUBAI, May 14 (Reuters) – The de facto leader of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, was elected president of the Gulf Arab state by a federal supreme council on Saturday, cementing his rule over the OPEC oil producer and one of the main regional players. player. Read more

He becomes president at a time when the UAE’s longstanding ties with the United States are strained due to the perceived disengagement of the United States from the security concerns of its Gulf allies and as the Western countries are seeking support from the region to help isolate Russia in the Ukrainian conflict.

The council, which includes the rulers of the seven emirates of the UAE federation, elected Sheikh Mohammed, says MbZ, a day after the death of his half-brother, President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, also ruler of Abu Dubai.

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“We congratulate him and pledge allegiance to him, as do our people,” said Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, who is also vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates.

MbZ, 61, has wielded power behind the scenes for years and led a Middle East realignment that has created a new anti-Iran axis with Israel.

The United Arab Emirates, a trade and tourism hub, has also deepened its ties with Russia and China at a time when Washington’s political capital with Abu Dhabi and Riyadh has been eroded by differences over the war in Yemen, Iran and US conditions on arms sales.

“Mohammed bin Zayed defined not only the future of the United Arab Emirates, but also that of much of the Gulf in his approach to state building and power projection,” said researcher Kristin Diwan. senior resident at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.

“The future direction under his leadership is set and reflected in other Gulf leaders’ embrace of state-led, globally-oriented economic diversification.”

‘EXTRAORDINARY FOUNDATION’

The Biden administration has moved to tighten ties with oil heavyweights Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Both refused to take sides in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and pushed back on Western calls to pump in more oil to help bring crude prices under control. Read more

President Joe Biden said in a statement on Saturday that he looked forward to working with Sheikh Mohammed “to build from this extraordinary foundation to further strengthen the bonds between our countries and our peoples.”

Vice President Kamala Harris will lead a US delegation to the United Arab Emirates on Monday to offer condolences over Khalifa’s passing and meet with MbZ, press secretary Kirsten Allen said.

French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Israeli President Isaac Herzog are due to arrive on Sunday. learn more S8N2S7032

MbZ as president would not lead the UAE to break with the United States or other Western partners, although he would diversify the country’s international partners, Emirati political scientist Abulkhaleq Abdulla told Reuters.

MbZ has moved away from a hawkish foreign policy and military adventurism, which has seen the UAE floundering in conflicts from Yemen to Libya, to focus on economic priorities. It has seen the UAE engage with foes like Iran and Turkey after years of animosity, as well as the Syrian president.

“MbZ will need to take further steps to cement the UAE’s position as the region’s leading financial, logistics and trade hub,” Capital Economics’ James Swanston said in a note, referring to Gulf states’ willingness to diversify their economies in a global energy context. transition away from hydrocarbons.

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Reporting by Enas Alashray, Lisa Barrington, Saeed Azhar, Alexander Cornwell, Steve Holland and Ari Rabinovitch; Written by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Christina Fincher

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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