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Kamala Harris to lead US delegation to UAE following death of Emirati president

<i>Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at the US-ASEAN Special Summit at the State Department in Washington
AFP via Getty Images
Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at the US-ASEAN Special Summit at the State Department in Washington

By Jasmine Wright, CNN

Vice President Kamala Harris will make a trip to the United Arab Emirates on Monday, leading a presidential delegation to express in-person condolences on the death of the country’s president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Harris will also meet with the new president, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, while in the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi, according to a statement from Harris’ press secretary, Kirsten Allen.

“In addition to honoring the memory and the legacy of Sheikh Khalifa, the Vice President will underscore the strength of the partnership between our countries and our desire to further deepen our ties in the coming months and years,” Allen said Saturday.

Harris’ delegation will include US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, according to a statement Saturday from State Department Spokesperson Ned Price.

Blinken said in a statement: “We look forward to working closely together to build on the extraordinary partnership between the United States and the United Arab Emirates that grew under His Highness Sheikh Khalifa’s presidency, and continuing our dialogue to advance a more peaceful and secure region and world.”

In addition to Blinken, Harris will be joined by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, CIA Director Bill Burns and special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry, the White House said in a statement. The trip will also include US Embassy Abu Dhabi Chargé d’Affaires Sean Murphy; Harris national security adviser Phil Gordon; National Security Council coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Brett McGurk; and NSC senior director for the Middle East and North Africa Barbara Leaf.

The size and seniority of the delegation indicate an effort to ease recent tensions between the two countries, which grew after a drone attack on Abu Dhabi by Houthi rebels in January that left three dead. The UAE has pushed to have the Biden administration redesignate the Houthis as a terrorist organization after Biden reversed the Trump-era designation.

Both President Joe Biden and Harris offered their condolences recently on Sheikh Khalifa’s death. Biden called the late UAE leader “a true partner and friend of the United States.”

In a statement congratulating Sheikh Mohammed on his election as UAE president, Biden said that “the United States is determined to honor the memory of the late president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan by continuing to strengthen the strategic partnership between our countries over the coming months and years.”

Sheikh Khalifa, whose modernization policies helped transform his country into a regional powerhouse, died on Friday at the age of 73.

Sheikh Mohammed, his brother, was unanimously elected president by the country’s Federal Supreme Council, the UAE’s official news agency (WAM) said. Sheikh Mohammed had been widely seen as the de facto leader of the UAE, handling day-to-day affairs for the Gulf state, while Sheikh Khalifa’s role had been largely ceremonial since he suffered a stroke and underwent surgery in 2014.

This story has been updated on Sunday with additional details.

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CNN’s Celine Alkhaldi, Mostafa Salem, Sarah Fortinsky, Besty Klein and Alex Marquardt contributed to this report.

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