ABU DHABI - Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has been conferred the Union Medal by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the country's highest award for a foreigner.
The Prime Minister received the award from Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed Zayed Al Nahyan in recognition of his contributions to enhance the UAE-Malaysia ties, when both leaders held a four-eyed meeting at Mushrif Palace here yesterday.
Najib said he was surprised when Sheikh Mohammed told him that he wanted to give him something.
"It was in the early stage of our conversation when he said he wanted to surprise (me) with something.
"He said he wanted to give this award. I was indeed very surprised and apparently, it was the highest award that the (UAE) government can give to a foreign leader," he said at a press conference at the end of his first day visit here.
The Prime Minister is on a three-day state visit at the invitation of Sheikh Mohammed.
Najib said that during the meeting, he thanked UAE for their assistance in the search for the missing Flight MH370.
"I also expressed our gratitude to Sheikh Mohammed for the assistance during the Lahad Datu incursion when they offered us their UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle).
"Currently, our army is here for a joint military exercise with their UAE counterparts and this proves the close bilateral relationship between the two countries," he said.
Earlier, Najib witnessed the signing of an agreement between 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) and the UAE's General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments (Awqaf) for the construction of an Islamic Centre in Bandar Malaysia in Sungai Besi.
He said a mosque, which could accommodate a congregation of up to 30,000 people, would also be built.
Awqaf would provide the funds for the construction of the mosque while 1MDB provides the land.
"We are discussing the details because the design of the centre has to fit in with concept of the entire master plan of Bandar Malaysia.
"Details like the cost and size of the centre will be provided later but it will be an iconic development and UAE's contribution is significant," he said.
Bandar Malaysia, a 200ha urban redevelopment project of the former RMAF air base, is designed to support Greater KL as a new engine of growth.
Najib also witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on tourism and related activities between the Tourism and Culture Ministry and the UAE National Council of Tourism and Antiquities.
Last year, 19,880 tourists from UAE visited Malaysia compared to 18,233 in 2012, an increase of 9.3 per cent.
The number of Malaysians visiting UAE also increased by 8.76 per cent to 19,830.
The Education Ministry and UAE's Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research signed an MoU to pave way for the exchange of academic staff and scholarships and the establishment of collaborative relations between institutions of higher learning.