A high-level US delegation led by Vice President Kamala Harris is flying to the United Arab Emirates to pay tribute to the federation’s late leader and meet with the newly elected president.
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — A high-level US delegation led by Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to the United Arab Emirates on Monday to pay tribute to the federation’s late leader and meet with the newly elected president.
The trip is the highest-level visit by Biden administration officials to oil-rich Abu Dhabi, meant to be a powerful show of support as the US administration tries to mend troubled relations with its partner.
The delegation includes Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, CIA Director William Burns and climate envoy John Kerry, among others.
The United Arab Emirates has named the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, its new president following the death of his half-brother last Friday. Sheikh Mohammed has been the country’s de facto ruler and has shaped the country’s muscular foreign policy since Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan suffered a stroke nearly a decade ago.
Under Sheikh Mohammed’s de facto rule, the UAE has intervened in regional conflicts from Yemen to Libya, used its vast oil wealth to exert influence abroad, and transformed itself into a regional financial hub.
Highlighting Abu Dhabi’s great influence in Western and Arab capitals, an array of presidents and prime ministers descended on the desert sheikh over the weekend to honor the late Sheikh Khalifa, praise Sheikh Mohammed and cement ties. French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson were the first European leaders to fly to the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
Other dignitaries were due to filter through the marbled Presidential Terminal at Abu Dhabi Airport on Monday. Iran has said Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian will visit the emirate – a meeting that could coincide with the US visit. Iran has refused to meet with US officials face to face, even as they negotiate a return to Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers.
Before heading to Abu Dhabi, Harris said she was traveling on behalf of President Joe Biden to offer condolences on the passing of the long-suffering Sheikh Khalifa and to cement America’s crucial relationship with the Emirates. United Arabs.
“The United States takes the strength of our relationship and our partnership with the United Arab Emirates very seriously,” Harris told reporters. “So we are going there to express our condolences but also as an expression of our commitment to the strength of this relationship.”
Officials were expected to address longstanding frustrations in the UAE over U.S. security protections in the region, as well as tensions that have emerged between the countries over Russia’s war on Ukraine.
The United Arab Emirates, along with Saudi Arabia, have faced US pressure to avoid Russia and pump more oil to improve the stability of energy markets as Europe tries to wean itself off the Russian crude.
But the UAE is a key trading partner for Russia and a member of the so-called OPEC Plus deal, of which Russia is an important member. The Emiratis have pushed back against US demands – a resistance rooted in the apparent sense that despite its continued heavy military presence in the Arabian Peninsula, America is no longer such a reliable partner.
After taking office, Biden lifted a terror designation on Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen who fired missiles and drones at the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and is trying to revive the nuclear deal of Tehran – a deal that Gulf Arab states fear will embolden Iran and its proxies.
America’s abrupt and chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan last summer and its long-term foreign policy goal of moving away from the Middle East and towards China have heightened concerns among Gulf Arabs. Meanwhile, the Biden administration has suspended a multi-billion dollar sale of F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates agreed to by former President Donald Trump.
Trump abandoned the Tehran nuclear deal and heavily courted Emirati and Saudi officials.
This spring, Yousef al-Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador to the United States, described the allies as going through a “stress test”.
DeBre reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.