US State Dept Photo(RIYADH, Saudi Arabia) — Saudi state television reported on Thursday that King Abdullah had passed away and Crown Prince Salman would become king.
King Abdullah was born in 1924 and ascended to the throne in 2005.
Crown Prince Salman, just 11 years younger than Abdullah, will become king, with Deputy Crown Prince Muqrin expected to follow his older brother as the new crown prince. Abdullah, Salman and Muqrin were all sons of King Abdulaziz al-Saud, who founded the kingdom in 1932.
President Obama issued a statement on Thursday expressing his “personal condolences and the sympathies of the American people to the family of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and to the people of Saudi Arabia.” He called the kingdom of Saudi Arabia “a critical force within the global economy and a leader among Arab and Islamic nations,” and praised King Abdullah.
“He took bold steps in advancing the Arab Peace Initiative, an endeavor that will outlive him as an enduring contribution to the search for peace in the region,” Obama said of the king. “As our countries worked together to confront many challenges, I always valued King Abdullah’s perspective and appreciated our genuine and warm friendship,” the president added. “As a leader he was always candid and had the courage of his convictions…one of those convictions was his steadfast and passionate belief in the importance of the U.S.-Saudi relationship as a force for stability and security in the Middle East and beyond.”
Obama called the strength of the relationship between the two nations part of King Abdullah’s legacy.
Vice President Joe Biden, who will lead a presidential delegation representing the U.S. to pay respects to King Abdullah in the coming days, called his death “a great loss for his country.”
“It is hard to distinguish [King Abdullah] from Saudi Arabia itself,” Biden said, “over many decades, he played an outsized role in building his country.” The vice president praised the king for “his frankness, his sense of history, his pride in his efforts to move his country forward, and his steadfast belief in the U.S.-Saudi relationship.”
Secretary of State John Kerry called Thursday “a sad day,” praising King Abdullah as “a man of wisdom and vision.”
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, in his own statement, called the late king “a man of tremendous character and courage” and “a powerful voice for tolerance, moderation, and peace — in the Islamic world and across the globe.”
Former President George H.W. Bush called the late king his “dear friend and partner” and praised him as a “wise and reliable ally” who helped the two nations “build on a strategic relationship and enduring friendship dating back to World War II.” He also highlighted the cooperation of the two nations during the invasion of Kuwait, calling it “unparalleled.”
Former President George W. Bush said in a statement that he and his wife Laura were “saddened by the death of a man I admire and with whom I was honored to work.” He also recalled fond memories of both his visits to Saudi Arabia and of King Abdullah’s visit to his Crawford, Texas ranch.
Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.