Top US officials attend UAE’s 50th National Day celebration in Washington

CIA director William Burns, climate envoy John Kerry, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and others attended the Emirates’ Golden Jubilee celebration

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High-ranking members of President Joe Biden's administration attended the UAE’s 50th National Day celebrations in Washington, reflecting the depth and strength of the bilateral relationship.

A who's who of Washington heavy hitters came to Wednesday night's event at the Reach, the new annexe of the world-renowned Kennedy Centre, located on the banks of the Potomac River, including CIA Director William Burns, climate envoy John Kerry and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador to Washington, hailed UAE-US ties.

“Fifty years on, the UAE-US relationship has grown to become our most important, with broad human, economic, cultural and security dimensions,” he said.

“Our shared outlook for the region and world is critical to our efforts of securing peace and stability.”

Also on the list of those attending were: Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, White House Middle East director Brett McGurk, Undersecretary of State Derek Chollet, envoys for the Horn of Africa and Yemen Jeffrey Feltman and Tim Lenderking, and other senior officials from the Pentagon, Treasury and Commerce departments.

Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE's ambassador to the US, speaks at National Day celebrations in Washington. Photo: UAE embassy

Mr Al Otaiba recounted the UAE’s historic accomplishments over the past year: the Emirates marked several banner moments, including when it became the first Arab nation (and fifth globally) to reach Mars, pledged to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, was selected to host Cop28 in 2023 and was named to a seat on the UN Security Council beginning in 2022.

Mr Kerry, who attended the Dubai signing ceremony for the historic UAE-Jordan-Israel solar energy deal, applauded the Emirates for leading on regional climate issues.

“The agreement is terrific for the region. [It is] very important to have these countries working together, co-operating to deal with the climate crisis,” Mr Kerry told The National.

He expected additional, similar agreements to follow, building on the Abraham Accords that normalised relations between four Arab countries and Israel.

“The UAE deserves enormous credit for helping pull things together and for being willing to lead,” Mr Kerry said.

Shaima Gargash, the deputy chief of mission at the UAE embassy, said Wednesday’s gathering and broad attendance was a testimony to the expansion in US-UAE relations over the years.

John Kerry, the US climate envoy, and Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE ambassador to the US, speak at the Washington celebration. Photo: UAE embassy

“We have gone through a lot, especially in the last two years,” she said, referring to the pandemic.

“No better way to celebrate [our Golden Jubilee] than with our friends and partners in the United States. There is so much we want to showcase and so much to tell,” Ms Gargash told The National.

Marcelle Wahba, a former US ambassador to the UAE and president emeritus of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, saw the Emirates as a leading and visionary voice in the region.

“It’s this leadership and vision what makes the UAE different,” Ms Wahba told The National.

Wednesday's celebrations also included the attendance of Israel’s ambassador to the US, Michael Herzog — a first for such an event. Jordan’s ambassador to the US, Dina Kawar, and Iraq’s ambassador, Fareed Yasseen, also came.

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken congratulated the UAE on its 50th birthday.

“We have enjoyed an enduring partnership through the last 50 years. It is one built on economic ties, innovation, people-to-people exchanges, and a commitment to regional security and stability,” Mr Blinken said.

Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE's ambassador to the US, and other officials celebrate the country's National Day in Washington. Photo: UAE embassy

The secretary commended the UAE for “the historic co-operation with Israel forged over the past year through the Abraham Accords” and for hosting Expo 2020.

“We look forward to working with the UAE on shared global priorities during your tenure on the UN Security Council and the UN Human Rights Council, and advancing our joint efforts to combat climate change and food insecurity,” Mr Blinken added, while thanking the country for its support in the Afghanistan evacuation efforts.

Updated: December 02, 2021, 6:48 PM
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