The United Arab Emirates have announced the death of its president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, following his long battle with illness.

Sheikh Khalifa, who died aged 73, suffered a stroke in 2014, and has made few public appearances due to his depleted health state ever since. The news of his demise have been confirmed by Emirati state news agency WAM on Twitter.

“The Ministry of Presidential Affairs announced that there will be 40 days of official mourning with flags at half mast and three days closure of ministries and official entities at the federal and local levels and the private sector,” the agency tweeted.

In recent years, Sheikh Khalifa’s brother—Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, has been responsible for handling key matters on foreign policy, making decisions in the now late ruler’s stead. MBZ is known for leading an embargo on Qatar, and participating in a Saudi-led war in Yemen. He took to Twitter to praise Khalifa’s leadership and time as president of the UAE.

“The UAE has lost its righteous son and leader of the ’empowerment phase’ and guardian of its blessed journey,” MBZ stated.

Born in 1948 at the inland Oasis of al-Ain, Khalifa was named after his grandfather Sheikh Khalifa bin Shakhbout. His birthplace shares a bother with the Sultanate of Oman.

He was named prime minister of Abu Dhabi and chairman of the Department of Defence in 1969. Sheikh Khalifa also served as defence minister after the nation gained independence in 1971.

Sheikh Khalifa soon gained prominence in the emirates, eventually becoming president in 2004. During his time in office, the UAE’s regional profile and recognition surged outstandingly, providing resources for Pakistan after the nation suffered from destructive floods years ago. His presidency saw the provision of warplanes to NATO; in a bid to end Muammar Gaddafi’s reign in Libya eleven years ago.

The Vice President and Prime Minister Sheikh bin Rashid Al Maktoum—who is also the ruler of Dubai, will now act as president till the federal council determines a new UAE ruler. This will be done by grouping rulers of all seven emirates to elect a president within thirty days.

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