The cause of death of Sheikh Khalifa has not yet been revealed (Photo: Reuters / AFP)

The President of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan has died at the age of 73 after ruling the country for 18 years.

News of his death meant a 40-day mourning period had entered the country, and private and public jobs had taken a three-day break since Friday.

Sheikh Khalifa oversaw much of the country’s rapid economic growth and was seen as a pro-Western modernizer who brought the Arabian Gulf state closer to the United States.

His name was immortalized on the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, after rescuing Dubai crippled by loans, during the financial crisis more than a decade ago.

However, after a stroke and emergency surgery in 2014, ten years after becoming president, he stopped being involved in the day-to-day running of the country.

In the last few years of his life his half-brother Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed became the de facto ruler.

Sheikh Mohammed has become a decision-maker in important foreign policy steps, such as joining the Saudi-led war in Yemen and imposing an embargo on Qatar in recent years.

The Queen, in a photo of a meeting with Sheikh Khalifa in 2013, said he would “long be remembered by all those working for regional stability” (Photo: Getty Images)
Flags in the UAE will be lowered out of respect for the deceased leader (Photo: Getty Images / AFP)

The Crown Prince, also the Deputy Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, has maintained new UAE relations with Israel after two normalized relations in 2020.

There were no immediate reports of a successor, although Sheikh Mohammed is expected to run for president during high oil prices, which increase the UAE’s purchasing power.

“The UAE has lost a devoted son and leader of its blessed path of empowerment,” Sheikh Mohammed wrote on Twitter after his brother’s death was officially announced in the state media.

“Caliph bin Zayed, my brother, supporter and teacher, may Allah give you eternal peace.”

Queen Elizabeth II expressed her condolences in a message to Sheikh Muhammad, in which he wrote: “Your dear brother has dedicated his life to serving the people of the United Arab Emirates and his relations with their allies and friends.

Sheikh Khalifa oversees much of UAE’s rapid economic growth (Photo: EPA)
UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed is expected to run for president (Photo: AFP / Getty Images)

“It will be remembered for a long time by all those who work for regional stability, understanding between peoples and between religions, as well as for the preservation of nature.

“I express my sincere condolences to Your Highness and express my condolences to the people of the United Arab Emirates.”

Boris Johnson said the Sheikh Khalifa was “a wise and respected leader who will be sorely missed.”

He said he had “made a personal contribution to regional stability and preservation that will be remembered for a long time”.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has said he is “deeply saddened” to hear news of Sheikh Khalifa’s death.

He called him “respected not only in his country, but in the whole region and the world.”

Mr Blair added: “He will be greatly saddened and mourned, and my thoughts and sympathies with the royal family and people of the UAE”.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called Sheikh Khalifa “a true friend of the United States.”

Ties have been strained between the Biden administration and the leaders of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who have not joined U.S. efforts to isolate Russia amid its war in Ukraine.

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UAE enters 40 days of mourning after president Sheikh Khalifa dies aged 73

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