Biden picks career diplomat Martina Strong to be next ambassador to UAE

Nominee is chargé d’affaires at the US embassy in Saudi Arabia

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US President Joe Biden on Friday nominated career diplomat Martina Strong to be the next ambassador to the UAE, potentially filling a position that has been empty for well over a year.

Ms Strong currently serves as chargé d’affaires at the US embassy in Saudi Arabia and has previously held an array of diplomatic posts, including in Bulgaria, Iraq and Poland.

In the White House announcement of her nomination, Ms Strong was described as a career Foreign Service Officer.

She speaks Arabic, Czech, Polish, French, German, Russian and Bosnian, the White House said.

The US has not had an ambassador to the UAE since the departure of John Rakolta Jr, who served under Donald Trump and left the position in January 2021.

Martina Strong. Photo: US Department of State

Gerald Feirestein, a distinguished fellow at the Middle East Institute, described Ms Strong as well suited for the role.

"She's an enormously talented diplomat and very experienced in the Gulf region. She’s done an outstanding job in Saudi Arabia during a difficult period in the relationship," Mr Feirestein, a former US ambassador to Yemen, told The National.

Asked about her priorities in the country, Mr Feirestein said the nominee “will have no shortage of work related to our security relationship, promoting US-UAE trade and commercial links, and keeping engaged with the Emiratis on global issues while they have one more year on the UN Security Council".

The former diplomat lamented the slow process in picking a nominee and said responsibility falls equally on the White House and Congress.

Ms Strong's nomination now moves to the Senate for confirmation.

Updated: September 16, 2022, 8:35 PM
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