NEW YORK: Influential think-tank The Atlantic Council has honoured former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew with its Global Citizen Award, which recognises global leaders who have made distinctive contributions to the strengthening of the transatlantic relationship.

The award was given out at a ceremony in New York on Sunday (Monday, Sep 22, Singapore time). Mr Lee did not attend the event. Accepting the award on his behalf, Singapore’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law K Shanmugam said: “This is an age where words like ‘outstanding’, ‘extraordinary’, ‘great’ are overused to describe leaders. But few will challenge that Mr Lee deserves to be described in those terms and more.”

Paying tribute to Mr Lee was former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. The two have been close friends since they met at Harvard in 1967. Mr Kissinger said: “If one asked oneself of the contribution that any great leader can make, it is to take its society from where it is to where it has never been. An act that requires courage to choose an un-trodden path.”

The ceremony saw 350 guests from 25 countries in attendance. Fellow recipients of the Global Citizen Awards this year included former president of Israel Shimon Peres and actor Robert De Niro.

Mr Lee is held in high regard in the US. Upon meeting him in 2009, US President Barack Obama described him as “one of the legendary figures of Asia”.

Speaking after the ceremony, Mr Shanmugam paid tribute to Mr Lee’s international influence: “He recognised the importance of Singapore’s external relationships and he played a very very significant role in terms of international relations. His very strong friendships in Washington, in Beijing, in various international capitals where he was an honest broker, his views were taken very seriously.”

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