World leaders pay tribute to UAE's Sheikh Khalifa

World leaders pay tribute to UAE's Sheikh Khalifa

The UAE's new president, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, held talks Sunday with French counterpart Emmanuel Macron as world leaders streamed in to the oil-rich Gulf state to pay tribute to his late predecessor.

Macron's first foreign trip since his second term started last week has expressed his condolences to the leader MBZ following the death of his half-brother Sheikh Khalifa on Friday after a long illness.

Macron, the first Western leader to pay his respects, will be followed by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, US Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Israel's president and the king of Spain, among a long list of dignitaries.

The United Arab Emirates has increased influence in the Middle East and further afield due to its wealth, oil resources and strategic location.

Since 2014 MBZ has quietly run the country when sheikh Khalifa, his 73-year-old half-brother, was sidelined by a stroke. The cause of his death was not announced.

Presidents and monarchs from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Oman and Tunisia and Sudan's de facto ruler were among the leaders to offer their condolences on Saturday.

On Sunday, Qatar's emir, Bahrain's king and the Palestinian, German and Indonesian presidents were among more than 20 senior officials expected to be among them.

In his talks with Sheikh Mohamed, 61, Macron expressed his sincere condolences to his family and the people over Sheikh Khalifa's death, according to the French presidential office.

The United Arab Emirates are a strategic partner for France, a fact that is borne out by the degree of our cooperation in areas as varied as defence, culture and education, it added.

The country is marking 40 days of mourning for Sheikh Khalifa who took over after the death of his father, founding president Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan, in 2004.

Sheikh Mohamed was chosen to lead the desert state in a unanimous vote by the leaders of the country's seven emirates on Saturday.

MBZ's close ally, Saudi Arabia's de facto leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, called for a visit to India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Blinken and Harris on Monday for a visit that could help repair ties that have been strained since President Joe Biden replaced Donald Trump in the White House.

The two sides have been at odds over Abu Dhabi's refusal to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine and Washington's reopening of nuclear talks with Iran, long accused by Gulf states of creating regional chaos.

Macron and Johnson had been in Abu Dhabi for the second time in the last few months. Johnson's visit to the UAE and Saudi Arabia failed to convince the UAE and Saudi Arabia to pump more oil after Russia's war in Ukraine sent markets into turmoil.

The wealthy UAE has emerged as a leader of a reshaped Middle East, forging ties with Israel and joining a Saudi-led war against Iran-backed rebels in Yemen.

The UAE signed a 14 billion-euro contract for 80 Rafale warplanes during Macron's previous visit in December.