Malaysia, Singapore to implement five recommendations to resolve maritime issues

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PUTRAJAYA (March 14): Malaysia and Singapore are to implement five recommendations with effect from today to resolve the maritime issues surrounding the port limits of the two countries.

The recommendations are outlined in a joint statement issued by Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah and his Singaporean counterpart Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, after their meeting on bilateral issues at Wisma Putra here today.

"These measures taken by both countries shall be without prejudice to Malaysia’s and Singapore’s respective maritime boundary claims in the area,” the statement said.

As per the recommendations, Malaysia and Singapore have mutually agreed to suspend the implementation of their overlapping port limits and apply their port limits in effect prior to Oct 25, 2018, and Dec 6, 2018 respectively.

The statement said Malaysia and Singapore agreed to not authorise and to suspend all commercial activities in the area.

The foreign ministers also agreed that Malaysia and Singapore should not anchor government vessels in the area.

The joint statement said Malaysian and Singaporean vessels are to operate in the area in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

"The relevant agencies on both sides will work out practical modalities to avoid untoward incidents in the area,” it said.

It said Malaysia and Singapore also agreed to establish a committee chaired by Malaysian Foreign Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Muhammad Shahrul Ikram Yaakob and Singapore Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Chee Wee Kiong for boundary delimitations.

The statement said the committee would ensure implementation of the first four recommendations within one month, and that negotiations for maritime boundary delimitations in the area would commence within one month, following such implementation.

The joint statement said that in the event that the committee is unable to reach an amicable solution on delimitation, Malaysia and Singapore might mutually agree to resort to an appropriate international third-party dispute settlement procedure on terms to be mutually agreed by the parties.

Both foreign ministers, according to the statement, agreed that these measures were vital to de-escalate the situation on the ground and pave the way for the maritime boundary delimitation of the area.

"These measures also demonstrate the commitment of both countries to work together to preserve a strong and positive bilateral relationship on the basis of equality and mutual respect, and to resolve bilateral issues amicably in accordance with international law," it said.

During their meeting today, Saifuddin and Balakrishnan discussed the Working Group's report on maritime issues surrounding the overlapping Johor Bahru Port Limits off Tanjung Piai and Singapore Port Limits off Tuas. 

The report was submitted by the Working Group headed by Muhammad Shahrul Ikram and Chee.

Both foreign ministers commended the work of the Working Group and said they were pleased to note the positive progress that has been made by them. 

"Both ministers look forward to the successful implementation of the Working Group’s recommendations,” said the joint statement.

The Singapore and Malaysia bilateral spat on maritime boundaries, with matters related to the Johor Bahru port limits, resurfaced on Dec 4 last year, when the republic claimed that the recent extension of the limits had encroached into Singapore territorial waters off Tuas. — Bernama