04 November 2004

Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan

AZAD-HYE (4 November 2004): Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, the Ruler of Abu Dhabi since 1966 and President of the United Arab Emirates since its foundation 1971, died on 2nd November 2004 at the age of 86.

Sheikh Zayed knew the Armenians who had settled in the UAE since the fifties and the sixties of the past century. After the introduction of organizational life in the Armenian Community of the UAE (1979) and the establishment of the Prelacy of Kuwait and the Arabian Gulf Countries (1994) Armenians founded weekly schools in Sharjah and Abu Dhabi and in 1998 built the Armenian Church in Sharjah.

In 1995 Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan received H.H. Karekin I, Catholicos of All-Armenians on his official visit to the UAE. Seven years later (2002) President Robert Kotcharian visited the UAE and discussed with Sheikh Zayed ways of improving the Armenian-Emirati relations.

As Leader of the United Arab Emirates:

He was a visionary leader and the principal architect of the United Arab Emirates, the most successful example of regional unity in modern Arab history.

In less than a generation he managed to transfer the citizens of the UAE from poverty to riches, without losing to much of their culture.

He allowed freedom of worship to the foreigners who resided in the UAE. Sheikh Zayed always lived modestly and enjoyed traditional hunting parties with falcons and desert journeys to visit his people. He gave up hunting with rifles at an early age as a contribution to conserving wildlife.

In a politically unstable region, Sheikh Zayed was a model of stability and progress. A noted philanthropist, he believed oil wealth was a gift from God that should be shared with countries and people in need. Subsequently he channeled economic assistance to at least 40 countries on three continents.

Sheikh Zayed's statesmanship was tested by the negotiations leading to the creation of the UAE. He convinced the other six emirates that consist the UAE to join the Federation (1971). In 1981 he persuaded the five other Arab Gulf countries - Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait - to unite in the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC). The inaugural meeting took place in Abu Dhabi.

With revenues growing year by year as oil production increased, a massive program of construction of schools, housing, hospitals and roads rapidly got under way. By 2003 the population had grown from 200,000 to 2.3 million.

Sheikh Zayed was one of the first Arab leaders to offer support to Kuwait after the Iraqi occupation in 1990, and he allowed coalition forces to use UAE bases as staging points for the regaining of Kuwaiti territory. He subsequently expressed serious concern about the impact of UN sanctions on Iraq, and extended humanitarian aid to the Iraqi people. When the US-led coalition was preparing to invade Iraq last year, he declined to allow UAE bases to be used.

Sheikh Zayed supervised a program of desert reclaiming that has now seen more than 150 million trees planted. On the island of Sir Bani Yas Shaikh, he encouraged captive breeding of rare species including the Arabian oryx and gazelle.

His eldest son, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, born in 1947 succeeds as Ruler of Abu Dhabi. On 3rd November 2004 he was elected President of the UAE.

Combined Sources including British "Telegraph" of 4th November 2004.

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