Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the United Arab Emirates, has died, the Ministry of Presidential Affairs announced on Friday. He also ruled the emirate of Abu Dhabi.
“The Ministry of Presidential Affairs mourns the passing of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who passed away on Friday,” the ministry announced in a statement on official media without providing any information.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, would serve as interim president until the federal council of the seven emirates convenes within 30 days to pick a new president.
Since having a stroke in 2014, Khalifa, born in 1948, had been seldom seen in public, and his half-brother, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, also known as MbZ, has been the de facto ruler of the U.S.-allied UAE, an OPEC oil exporter.
“The United Arab Emirates has lost its noble son and leader of the ’empowerment phase’ and custodian of its beautiful path,” tweeted MbZ, praising Khalifa’s wisdom and charity.
The UAE will observe a 40-day period of mourning beginning on Friday, with flags at half-staff, and cease all work for three days, according to the ministry.
Arab officials, including the king of Bahrain, the president of Egypt, and the prime minister of Iraq, began extending their condolences.
Khalifa came to power in 2004 in Abu Dhabi, the richest emirate, and assumed the position of head of state. Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed is anticipated to succeed him as ruler of Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi, which possesses the majority of the Gulf state’s oil resources, has held the presidency since Khalifa’s father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, founded the UAE federation in 1971.