What royal funerals in the UAE say about the future direction of the nation

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, known as MBZ, took over the reins on Saturday after his half-brother Sheikh Khalifa. passed away the day before. The former crown prince of Abu Dhabi ran the day-to-day affairs of the country during his brother’s long illness.

Sheikh Mohammed takes over leadership of a developing country. This evolution has been gradual and smooth, and this has also been reflected by the government in recent political positions.

Late last year, in celebration of its 50th anniversary, the UAE announced its direction for the next half century. Foreign policy, he said, will be determined primarily by his economic interests and good neighborliness. Subsequently, he identified the countries he considers his future economic partners, singling out Israel, Turkey, India, the UK, South Korea, Indonesia, Kenya and Ethiopia as partners for trade and investment.

What, however, may shed more light on the country’s future direction and partnerships is the list of delegates who flew in to offer their condolences.

Here is a list of noteworthy contributors and why they are important:

United States

The US views the UAE as one of its top allies in the Middle East and is seeking to mend relations with them amid tensions stemming from what the UAE sees as the Biden administration’s lackluster response to the threats facing the UAE. The administration was represented by Vice President Kamala Harris.

Iran

Iran sent its foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, in what was the highest-level visit by a senior Iranian official to the country in years. Relations between the two countries have been strained recently, but the UAE has engaged with the Islamic Republic and sought to distance itself from the notion that they and Tehran are enemies.

Israel

Israel, represented by President Isaac Herzog, is the only state on the UAE’s list that has not been a traditional trading partner. This is because the relationship was only normalized in 2020. But the UAE has been looking to make up for lost years by signing a series of economic agreements with the country after normalization. The two countries signed a free trade agreement last month and the UAE is planning invest 10 billion dollars in Israel.

India

A country of over one billion people has been singled out as one of the main economic partners of the UAE for the next fifty years. This year, the two countries signed a major trade agreement aimed at boosting bilateral trade to $100 billion in five years as the first trade agreement signed by a South Asian economic power with a major trading partner in more than local media reports. India was represented by Vice President M. Venkaya Naidu.

Turkey

Ankara and Abu Dhabi have only recently turned the page on a decade-long rift over differences in regional policy. In November, the UAE launched $10 billion fund to support investment in Turkey as the two leaders exchanged visits. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to visit the UAE on Tuesday.

Qatar

The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, offered his condolences on his first visit to the UAE since the Saudi-led boycott of the country began in 2017. The boycott, of which the UAE was a part, ended early last year.

United Kingdom

The UK is a traditional trading partner of the UAE, but the Gulf state is looking to significantly expand ties. Last year he announced a £10bn ($13.8bn) investment partnership with the UK and said he could invest another $1.4bn. Britain was represented by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Digest

Hezbollah coalition loses several seats in Lebanese parliament, preliminary results show

Monday’s preliminary election results showed that the Hezbollah-backed allies lost some of their seats in parliament, striking at the Iranian-backed group that had tightly controlled the country for decades.

  • Background: Druze politician Talal Arslan, a Hezbollah ally, has lost the seat he has held for three decades to an opposition candidate, according to a Hezbollah spokesman. The Saudi allied Lebanese Forces party said it had won the seats. The votes are still being counted and the final composition of the 128-member Parliament has not yet been announced.
  • Why is it important: Sunday’s elections are the first since Lebanon plunged into a catastrophic economic crisis following the deadly 2020 Beirut port bombing. Hezbollah has had a lot of influence in the country for decades. She currently has a majority in parliament, but newcomers threaten to shake her influence.

US calls for ‘immediate and credible investigation’ into murder of journalist

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said on Sunday an “immediate and credible investigation into the circumstances” of the death of Palestinian-American journalist Shirin Abu Akle is needed, refusing to specify who should be responsible for the investigation. Blinken spoke to the Abu Akle family on Saturday, according to a senior State Department official.

  • Background: A veteran Al Jazeera journalist was shot and killed last week while covering an Israeli military operation in the West Bank city of Jenin. Her death sparked an international outcry, especially after Israeli police beat mourners with batons as they carried her coffin. Israeli police say they are investigating the events that took place during the procession.
  • Why is it important: The killing of Abu Akle has shaken up the international community and could exacerbate already high tensions in Jerusalem. The developments could also complicate Biden’s upcoming June visit to Israel, during which an Israeli official told CNN he is considering a visit to East Jerusalem, which has a large Palestinian population.

Sweden tries to overcome Turkey’s objections to its NATO membership bid

Sweden will start diplomatic talks with Turkey to try to overcome Ankara’s objections to its plan to join NATO, Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist said. On Monday, the Swedish Prime Minister said the government had decided to seek NATO membership.

  • Background: Sweden and Finland are abandoning decades of military non-alignment and plan to join NATO after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Turkey, a member of NATO, said it would not react positively to the statements of the two countries because they are “guest houses for terrorist organizations.”
  • Why is it important: Any decision to expand NATO requires the approval of all 30 alliance members and their parliaments, but diplomats said Erdogan would be forced to back down as Finland and Sweden significantly strengthen NATO in the Baltic Sea. Turkey has said it wants the Nordic countries to stop supporting Kurdish fighters present on their territory and lift bans on the sale of certain weapons to Turkey.

By region

The century-old Egyptian film industry is resurrecting as the world reopens after two years of a pandemic-driven slowdown in show business around the world.

However, this time it was women who breathed life into Egyptian cinema.

Once known as the Hollywood of the Middle East, Egypt produced around 100 films a year, but that number has recently dwindled to around 30.

Women have always played a prominent role in Egyptian cinema, although their presence has sometimes been stigmatized. That hasn’t stopped legendary actress Yousra from making her mark on the film industry in a nearly 50-year career. Hailed as a pioneer in her field, Yousra has done more than bring talent to the big screen by using her presence to propel the industry forward. “I wanted to change the laws. I didn’t go there to be handsome, [I wanted to give] a good reason for people to fight for their rights. And I did it, we changed the laws,” she told CNN.

The film scene has certainly changed since Yousra started in the 1970s. Streaming services have taken Egyptian cinema forward and further, making it accessible to a global audience.

Opening this new era of Egyptian cinema is Maya Zayed, director of Lift Like a Girl, a story about girls weightlifting in Alexandria, which is the first Egyptian documentary to be released on Netflix. In a commercial film country, Maye is going against the grain, using cinema as a tool to create social change, even pairing her screenings with youth workshops to tackle gender inequality.

Like the Maya, Maryam Abu Uf also sought to bring change to Egypt, but through politics. She soon realized that art could be more effective than science. “It was very difficult to make any changes politically. That’s why I thought about the film, at least I can show or tell what is wrong with society.” According to Maryam, the success of the television show about adoption, Leh Laa 2, has changed public opinion and laws in Egypt, making adoption easier.

Women in Egyptian cinema say they are not just focused on shaping society. They seek to change the way the industry operates. Through collaboration, a feminine eye and a passion for storytelling, they work as a collective voice to increase the representation of women in Egypt’s film industry.

Tawanda Scott and Tasmiya Randeri

Photo of the day

A man walks amid a severe dust storm on a footbridge over the Euphrates River in Nasiriyah, Iraq, on May 16.  Strong winds called Shamal, which blow from the northwest of the country, usually cause summer dust storms in Iraq.  However, the recent increase in storms has turned the sky orange and worsened air quality, causing some to be hospitalized.  The Iraqi meteorological director said the drought is causing more dust storms in Iraq, NASA said.

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