The delegation included Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, CIA Director William Burns and climate envoy John Kerry, among others. This is the highest-level public visit to the oil-rich capital of Abu Dhabi by Biden administration officials.
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 is the country’s de facto ruler and has shaped the country’s foreign policy since Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan suffered a stroke nearly a decade ago.
Highlighting Abu Dhabi’s 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.
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.”
Blinken was the first to land in Abu Dhabi before holding talks with his Emirati counterpart. Officials were vague on the agenda, but were widely expected to address long-standing UAE frustrations over U.S. security protections in the region as well as tensions that have emerged between countries about Russia’s war against Ukraine.
The United Arab Emirates, along with Saudi Arabia, have faced intense US pressure to avoid Russia and pump more oil to improve the stability of energy markets as Europe tries to wean off 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 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 Tehran’s shreds with world powers – 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 sale of F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates agreed to by former President Donald Trump.
Trump had abandoned the Iran nuclear deal and heavily courted Emirati and Saudi officials.
Earlier this spring, Yousef al-Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador to the United States, described the allies as going through a “stress test”.