x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Remembering Zayed: From father of the UAE to world statesman

Picture gallery: Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was welcomed to the world stage just days after the UAE was formed in 1971.

Sheikh Zayed visiting India’s industrial and historical landmarks in 1975.  Photos courtesy Al Ittihad
Sheikh Zayed visiting India’s industrial and historical landmarks in 1975. Photos courtesy Al Ittihad

Seven days after the formation of the United Arab Emirates on December 2, 1971, the world’s newest nation was admitted to the United Nations.

Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was now a world leader, an increasingly familiar figure among the elite of the international community.

Sheikh Zayed the statesman welcomed scores of world leaders to Abu Dhabi, and in turn was honoured abroad, from the Great Wall of China to Buckingham Palace in London.

His was the voice of moderation after the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, when he observed that “Muslims stand against any person of Muslim faith who will try to commit any terror act against a fellow human being”.

Sheikh Zayed was also fully committed to the principle of Arab Unity. The 1981 formation of the GCC took place in Abu Dhabi.

On a wider scale, he gave much support to the Palestinian people, for a political solution to their dispute with Israel and in aid for developing infrastructure.

A man of peace, he always believed that cooperation was better than coercion, within the Arab community and across the world.

“Wise and mature leaders should listen to sound advice and should take necessary action to correct their mistakes,” Sheikh Zayed said.

The measure of his life became clear on his passing, on the 19th day of Ramadan, 1425. Among those attending the funeral or offering condolences were the emir of Qatar, the king of Jordan, and the presidents of Egypt, Lebanon, Algeria, India and France.

For US president George W Bush, Sheikh Zayed was “a pioneer, an elder statesman and a close ally”.

Speaking for the world, the UN secretary general Kofi Annan declared: “Sheikh Zayed’s wisdom, strong belief in diplomacy and generous assistance to developing nations … won him wide renown outside his own country.”