In this Nov. 4, 2012, file photo released by Saudi Press Agency, King Abdullah applauds French President Francois Hollande after presenting him with the Order of Merit in Jeddah. (AP Photo/SPA, File)
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
World leaders react to King Abdullah's death
RIYADH: World leaders paid tribute to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah on Friday, praising the late ruler as a key mediator between Muslims and the West.
US President Barack Obama said he and Abdullah, whose country has for decades been a strategic ally of Washington, had enjoyed a “genuine and warm friendship.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed Abdullah, who died in a Riyadh hospital earlier the same day, as a “wise politician.”
Iran sent condolences to the Saudi people and announced its foreign minister would travel to Riyadh for an “official ceremony” this weekend.
Abdullah, who officially took power in 2005, guided the Kingdom through a turbulent decade in the region, with neighbors Iraq and Yemen wracked with insecurity after the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings and the growth of Islamic radicalism.
French President Francois Hollande said Abdullah’s vision of “a fair and durable peace in the Middle East remains truer than ever.”
Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper praised the late king as “an ardent defender of peace.”
And the foreign ministry in Spain hailed Abdullah as “a respected figure throughout the Middle East for his willingness to help resolve conflicts.”
In London, Prime Minister David Cameron said the Saudi ruler would be remembered for “his commitment to peace and for strengthening understanding between faiths.”
Prince Charles of Wales is to travel to Riyadh as The Queen’s representative to pay his respects, the royal’s office said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Abdullah’s rule had been “fair and moderate,” praising him for aiding “dialogue between the Muslim world and the West.”
In the Middle East, Lebanon, which has close ties with Riyadh, spoke of losing “a defender and a partner” who had stood by Beirut “in difficult times.”
Tunisia’s President Beji Caid Essebsi said the king “ensured... support for causes of justice, peace and development in the Arab, Muslim and entire world.”
His country joined Algeria and Mauritania in announcing three days of mourning, while Cairo said its official grieving would run for a whole week.
Several leaders cut short overseas trips to travel to Riyadh and pay their respects.
Jordan’s King Abdallah II left the World Economic Forum in Davos, organizers said, before declaring 40 days of mourning for the late Saudi king.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin praised Abdullah as an “exemplary leader... with sound judgment.”
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas declared three days of mourning, describing the late monarch as a “sage.”
“With much sadness, we received the news of the death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, a loss to the Arab and Islamic world,” Abbas said in a statement.
President Recip Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey said Abdullah had contributed “to strengthening cooperation and solidarity in the Muslim world, especially concerning the Palestinian question and the situation in Syria.”
At the Asian Cup in Australia, the national football team of the United Arab Emirates donned black armbands for their match against Japan.
Malaysian Prime Minister Rajib Razak called Abdullah a “great leader for his initiative for inter-religious dialogue,” and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani pointed to Saudi involvement in his country’s peace negotiations.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, paid tribute to a man who “brought prosperity and reforms to his nation.”