Mohamed bin Zayed, the ruler of Abu Dhabi and architect of the normalisation policy with Israel, has been appointed the country’s new president following a meeting between the rulers of the seven emirates which make up the UAE.
Bin Zayed, often known as MBZ, has been the de facto ruler of the UAE since 2014 when his brother had a heart attack. But now he has officially become the third president in the UAE’s history, following the death of Sheikh Khalifa on Friday.
Sheikh Mohamed “expressed his appreciation for the dear trust that his brothers, their highnesses, members of the Federal Supreme Council, have entrusted him with, praying that Almighty God helps him succeed, helps him in taking on this great responsibility and meeting it in serving the UAE and its loyal people”, in comments published by state news agency Wam.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, was one of many to offer his congratulations.
“Today, the Federal Supreme Council elected my brother, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, as President of the State,” he wrote on Twitter. “We congratulate him and we pledge allegiance to him, and our people pledge allegiance to him.”
Sheikh Dr Sultan, Ruler of Sharjah, said: “As he has witnessed the UAE’s renaissance from a young age, accompanied by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and the Founding Leaders, President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan has significantly contributed to UAE’s development and achievements due to his wise vision, constant support and direct guidance.
“We congratulate President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and ask Allah Almighty to grant him success and prosperity. We affirm our permanent solidarity in serving the nation and preserving its union under his wise leadership.”
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MBZ is seen as a close ally of Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and has taken pro-West, anti-Iran positions.
Since 2014 he has launched a war on Yemen, a boycott of Qatar and cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood.
The UAE has also waded into conflicts from Somalia to Libya and Sudan before forging ties with Israel in 2020, along with Bahrain, in U.S.-brokered deals known as the Abraham Accords that drew Palestinian ire.
However, MBZ has not hesitated to move independently at times. The UAE abstained from a UN Security Council vote condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the UAE also rebuffed Western calls to pump more oil.
Abu Dhabi has also ignored other U.S. concerns by arming and backing Libya’s Khalifa Haftar against the internationally recognised government and engaging with Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.