The King of Malaysia, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, has pledged to work closely with the UAE to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sultan Abdullah said the UAE had helped his nation throughout the global health crisis.
He told the state news agency Wam that the two countries could join forces for the development of Covid-19 vaccines and boost ties in key sectors including health and education.
Sultan Abdullah, 61, paid a three-day working visit to the UAE this month, where he met Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.
“The UAE has demonstrated itself as a friend to Malaysia during this difficult period,” he said.
“For instance, in April, the UAE has been generous to provide medical equipment to assist Malaysia in facing the pandemic.
“In this context, Malaysia looks forward to working together with the UAE in overcoming the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Both countries could explore and intensify relations in the field of Covid-19 vaccine development, and strengthen post-pandemic collaboration in the fields of health, education, food security, agriculture, future technology, renewable and clean energy, halal industry and tourism, just to name a few.”
Sultan Abdullah did not offer further details on a UAE-Malaysian partnership on Covid-19 vaccines.
But the UAE and Malaysia have taken a proactive approach to ensuring their residents are inoculated against the virus.
The UAE has approved the use of the Sinopharm vaccine nationwide, while a phased introduction of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in Dubai is already under way.
Malaysia has agreed to spend more than $500 million to secure enough shots to cover 26.5 million people, or about 80 per cent of its population.
Malaysia can be UAE ‘gateway’ to South-East Asia
Sultan Abdullah hailed the rapid growth in multibillion-dollar trade with the UAE and highlighted the huge economic potential yet to be unlocked.
“The UAE has been one of Malaysia’s main trading partners in this region,” he said.
“In 2019, total trade between Malaysia and the UAE was valued at $6.426bn, an increase of 12.5 per cent from $5.709bn in 2018,” Sultan Abdullah said.
The UAE is also Malaysia’s largest export destination and second-largest source of import in West Asia, he said.
“Malaysia and the UAE have a good relationship, especially in trade and investment sectors,” the king said.
“Given our strategic location in the South-East Asian region, Malaysia is committed to being the gateway for the UAE to enter the South-East Asian market, which is home to 650 million people.
“As a major centre in the West Asia region, the UAE has always been an important country to Malaysia and serves as a gateway for Malaysia to new markets.”
The monarch was encouraged by a rise in tourism between Malaysia and the Emirates.
“I hope that both countries could continue to explore opportunities to further strengthen our economic ties,” Sultan Abdullah said.
“On the tourism front, for example, I am pleased to see the growing number of Emirati tourists visiting Malaysia before the pandemic. In 2019, more than 11,000 Emiratis visited Malaysia.
“When the borders are reopened, I hope that there would be more tourists from the UAE choosing to visit Malaysia as their preferred holiday destination, adding to their rich, varied and diverse travel experience.”
Enduring royal friendship with Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed
The king said his own long-standing friendship with Sheikh Mohamed could help to lay foundations for closer links between the countries.
The two men first met about 40 years ago as officer cadets at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in England.
The two maintained their friendship after completing their time at the military college between 1979 and 1980.
Sultan Abdullah said he believed their relationship would “pave the way for deeper bilateral relations and co-operation between Malaysia and the UAE".
“I also hope that it could serve as an avenue to exchange views over regional and global developments of mutual interest, as well as bring the people from our two countries closer.”
Sultan Abdullah was crowned as Malaysia’s king in January 2019.