Kamala Harris leads high-level US team to meet new UAE leader

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in Abu Dhabi on May 16, 2022, to offer condolences to Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, President of the UAE and ruler of Abu Dhabi. (Photo: AFP)
ABU DHABI — US Vice President Kamala Harris was on Monday leading a high-level delegation to meet the UAE’s new president, who takes over after his half-brother's death, following months of strained ties between Washington and the oil-rich Gulf state.اضافة اعلان

Harris, whose team includes Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and CIA chief William Burns, is heading the strongest delegation to visit UAE since President Joe Biden took office last year.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan or "MBZ" was chosen as president on Saturday, a day after the death of his long-ailing half-brother, former leader Sheikh Khalifa.

Harris congratulated Sheikh Mohamed on his election as UAE president, the office of the vice president said in a statement.

"She underscored the strength of the US’ partnership with the UAE and the Biden-Harris Administration's commitment to deepening ties to advance the interests of the American and Emirati people," it said.

"The Vice President noted that she is looking forward to the future of the relationship under Sheikh Mohamed's leadership, and that our friendship and partnership is enduring."

World leaders have flocked to Abu Dhabi to pay their respects, demonstrating the rising prominence of the major oil exporter after the decline of some of the Middle East's traditional powers.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was in Abu Dhabi to offer his condolences, while Britain's Prince William also flew in.

The high-level US visit appears intended to repair a relationship that has deteriorated since Biden replaced Donald Trump in the White House in January 2021.

"We were here to discuss the strength of that partnership and that friendship and our commitment, going forward, to continue to work at the strength of that relationship," said Harris. 

Ties have soured over issues including 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.

Yousef Al-Otaiba, the Emirati ambassador to the US, admitted in March that relations were going through a "stress test".

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