KUALA LUMPUR (Rahnuma) : Malaysia and Singapore on Tuesday vowed to work together to resolve their differences, particularly a long-running dispute over air and sea borders.
“We agree that the fundamental principle is to resolve issues of concern in a friendly and constructive manner and work toward amicable solutions,” said Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad during a joint press conference in the city of Putrajaya.
Delegations from the two Southeast Asian nations met for the ninth Leaders’ Retreat this week. The meeting was the first between the Singapore government and Malaysia’s new Pakatan Harapan government following the political coalition’s win in last year’s elections.
Referring to recent tensions between the two countries over a maritime boundary dispute that has been going on since the late 1970s, Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong said: “We have made progress to de-escalate the situation at sea and avoid further incidents.”
Dr. Ian Chong, associate professor of political science at the National University of Singapore, welcomed the positive tone of the meeting.
“We are among each other’s closest neighbors and highly interdependent. Amicability and cooperation in the relationship between Malaysia and Singapore is especially important in today’s more uncertain and complex world,” he told Arab News.
Both governments have vowed to kickstart the negotiation process to delimit their maritime borders and implement recommendations on maritime issues surrounding port limits off Tanjung Piai and Tuas. Mohamad said a new committee would be formed within a month to address the matters.
“Ultimately, Malaysia believes it is important to delimit all outstanding maritime boundaries between Malaysia and Singapore, and not only to delimit the area surrounding the port limits. It should be for the whole boundary,” he added.
A return to the 2018 limits will see both countries agreeing to temporarily suspend all commercial activities in the area and operate in accordance with international laws.
Singapore and Malaysia will also work to resolve outstanding bilateral maritime boundaries delimitation issues concerning Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge.
Both leaders pledged to resolve airspace disputes too. Malaysia has suspended its permanent Restricted Area (RA) over Pasir Gudang indefinitely, while Singapore has withdrawn the Instrument Landing System (ILS) procedures at Seletar Airport.
Loong said that resolving the airspace dispute was a complex matter that would involve consulting various stakeholders, including air traffic operations.
The island city of Singapore was established in 1965 following a bitter split from the Federation of Malaysia. Despite that, bilateral relations between Malaysia and Singapore remain strong.
Other issues discussed at the retreat included the 1962 Johor River Water Agreement and the Malaysia-Singapore railway suspension.