United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan has passed away on Friday at the age of 73.

A period of mourning will begin effective immediately for 40 days, where flags will be at half-mast, the Presidential Affairs Ministry said. Work in ministries and government departments on federal and local levels, as well as in the private sector, will also be suspended for three days effective immediately.

Khalifa bin Zayed is the eldest son of Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding leader of the UAE. As the 16th emir of Abu Dhabi and president of the UAE, he has been the leader of the country since 2004 when he was first elected president – the second in the UAE’s history. He has served in that capacity for over 17 years.

As per UAE law, Khalifa bin Zayed will be succeeded temporarily by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the emir of Dubai and vice president of the UAE, until until the federal council which groups the rulers of the seven emirates meets within 30 days to elect a new president.

“With hearts wracked by sadness and with souls that believe in God’s decree and destiny, we mourn the patron of our journey and the president of our state, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, for the people of the Emirates, the Arab and Islamic peoples, and for the world,” Mohammed bin Rashid tweeted.

During his time in charge, Khalifa bin Zayed has helped transform the UAE into a thriving regional power and a major business and technology hub. It was also under his administration that the UAE normalized ties with Israel in the historic Abraham Accords.

However, in 2014, he suffered a stroke and, while stable, most authority was given over to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, his half-brother, also known as MBZ.

“The Emirates lost its righteous son, the leader of the ’empowerment phase’ and the trustee of its blessed journey,” MBZ mourned on Twitter.

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