U.S. VP Harris, Other Top Officials in Abu Dhabi to Pay Respects to Late UAE Ruler

Iran's top diplomat was also expected in the Gulf state, as Tehran welcomes the appointment of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyanits as new president

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris in Washington, this month.
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris in Washington, this month.Credit: Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP

President Joe Biden sent a high-powered U.S. delegation to the United Arab Emirates on Monday to offer condolences after the death of its ruler, in an apparent bid to step up efforts to repair frayed ties with Gulf Arab allies.

Vice President Kamala Harris flew to the UAE on Monday to pay respects to the federation's late ruler and meet with the newly ascended president, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Iran's top diplomat was also expected to visit on Monday, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said, welcoming Mohammed bin Zayed's appointment as the Gulf state's president last week, following the death of his half-brother last Friday.

Since the weekend, world leaders have visited Abu Dhabi to pay respects to new leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed on the death of his half-brother. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman headed to the UAE on Monday to offer condolences, state media reported.

The U.S. delegation's trip is the highest-level visit by Biden administration officials to oil-rich Abu Dhabi, intended to be a potent show of support as the U.S. administration tries to repair troubled relations with its partner.

Harris landed in the Emirati capital, where she is expected to stay for around three hours. She heads a delegation that includes nearly all of Biden's top national security aides, from the secretaries of state and defense and the head of the Central Intelligence Agency to high-ranking White House officials.

Washington's desire to improve ties with Gulf monarchies has gained renewed urgency following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which highlighted the relevance of Gulf oil producers as Europe looks to cut its energy dependence on Russia.

Gulf states have so far refused to take sides in the Ukraine conflict. OPEC heavyweights Saudi Arabia and the UAE also resisted calls to hike output to help tame crude prices that have aggravated inflation worldwide.

The UAE named the assertive Abu Dhabi crown prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyanits new president, who has served as the country's de facto ruler and shaped the country's muscular foreign policy since Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan suffered a stroke nearly a decade ago.

Iranian state media said Foreign Minister Amirabdollahian had left Tehran to pay respects to the Gulf country's late President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed. His visit is the highest level trip by an Iranian official to the Gulf country since Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi movement launched a deadly strike on the United Arab Emirates in January.

The visit of Iran's top diplomat in the UAE comes a few days after Qatar’s emir met with Iran's president in Tehran on Thursday, offering support for efforts to revive the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, even as talks on the tattered accord remain deadlocked.

In 2019, the UAE started engaging with Iran following attacks on tankers off Gulf waters and on Saudi energy infrastructure. Iran's deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani visited the UAE in November, when he said the two countries had agreed to open a new chapter in bilateral relations.

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