Singapore, Malaysia to meet in January to talk about territorial dispute
S'pore 'encouraged' by response, welcomes agreement to meet next month
Malaysia yesterday said it will take all effective measures to de-escalate the situation on the ground and handle the ongoing maritime boundary dispute with Singapore in a calm and peaceful manner.
It also reiterated the importance of strong bilateral relations, and hoped talks on resolving matters would start expeditiously, Malaysia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Singapore responded by saying it is "encouraged" that Malaysia has undertaken to take all effective measures to de-escalate the situation.
Singapore also welcomes the Malaysian Government's agreement that officials meet in the second week of January to exchange views on resolving the Johor Baru port limits issue, said the Republic's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).
Still, the MFA said Singapore is "disappointed" that Malaysia is unable to accede to its proposal to revert to the pre-Oct 25 status quo.
The Johor Baru port limits were unilaterally extended by Malaysia that day, with Malaysia claiming waters belonging to Singapore as its own.
Singapore had, in a diplomatic note to Malaysia on Saturday, declined Malaysia's proposal for both sides to cease and desist from sending ships into the disputed area.
It also called on Malaysia to return to the pre-Oct 25 status quo by immediately withdrawing all its government vessels in the area.
Yesterday, MFA said Malaysia will be responsible for any "untoward situations" on the ground that arise from continued deployment of its vessels in this area.
In its statement, MFA revealed that last Friday, Singapore's Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam and Attorney-General Lucien Wong met Malaysian Attorney General Tommy Thomas to discuss the issue, along with other matters.
The Singapore officials proposed to Mr Thomas that Malaysia return to the status quo ante prior to Oct 25, "without prejudice to Malaysia's and Singapore's respective positions on the maritime boundary between the two countries in the area which Malaysia now claims".
Maritime boundary claims can be made under international law, in accordance with established procedures, without needing ships facing off against one another, MFA said.
"Malaysia has acknowledged that Singapore's proposal would have been without prejudice to both sides' respective positions... Singapore is hence disappointed that Malaysia is unable to accede to Singapore's proposal to go back to the status quo ante prior to 25 October 2018," it added.
"Nevertheless, Singapore is encouraged that Malaysia has undertaken to take all effective measures to de-escalate the situation on the ground, and handle the situation in a calm and peaceful manner."
On reiterating its call for Malaysia to revert to the pre-Oct 25 status quo, Singapore said this will avoid misunderstandings and potential issues on the ground.
"Malaysia's deployments in this area will not strengthen its legal claim and can only heighten tensions. Malaysia will be responsible for any untoward situations on the ground that arise from continued deployment of its vessels into this area," it said.
MFA also said the Singapore Government hopes to work with the Malaysian Government to find an "amicable resolution of issues between the two countries in accordance with international law, and in the spirit of preserving our important bilateral relationship".
Meanwhile, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said earlier yesterday that Malaysia will keep its vessels in the disputed waters until a decision has been reached.
At night, he said in an interview on RTM1: "It happens between neighbours, this overlapping of claims... The issue can be negotiated, if not we go for arbitration, or the courts. But we hold on to the belief that we are in the right."
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S'pore Transport Ministry responds to statement by M'sian counterpart
The Ministry of Transport said yesterday that the documents it made public last Tuesday with regard to flight procedures for Seletar Airport - the Instrument Landing System procedures - were in response to media queries as to whether the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) had consulted its Malaysian counterpart in December last year.
The queries arose from Malaysia's inaccurate claim earlier that day that the matter had come to its attention only two months ago, in October.
The ministry's clarification came a few hours after Malaysia's Transport Ministry said yesterday afternoon that the disclosure by the Singapore Transport Ministry was "only partial and selective with the primary aim of influencing public opinion".
In its statement, the Malaysian Ministry of Transport said that while it appreciates the Singapore Ministry of Transport's efforts at promoting transparency, the Singapore ministry should also release the letters from the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) to its Singapore counterpart. These letters were dated Oct 9, Nov 15 and Nov 28.
"Failing to do so, we are prepared to release the letters for full disclosure of such information for the public's comprehension of our stand on the same," the Malaysian ministry said.
In response, Singapore's Transport Ministry said: "Singapore's view is that it would be useful for negotiations to be kept confidential to facilitate frank and constructive exchanges. This is why we have not released any other correspondence between Singapore and Malaysia on this matter. The Malaysia Minister for Transport, Anthony Loke, had expressed a similar view on Dec 4, 2018."
The ministry added: "Nonetheless, we have no objection if Malaysia feels the need to release correspondence on this matter."
However, for transparency, the Malaysian Ministry of Transport should ensure that all correspondence and records of discussions between Singapore and Malaysia be published, including the record of discussion of the latest meeting between the two countries on Nov 29 and 30.
The first signs of Singapore-Malaysia tensions over Seletar Airport came to light on Nov 23 when Malaysian carrier Firefly made the surprising announcement that it would suspend all flights to Singapore from Dec 1, the day it was supposed to move its operations from Changi to Seletar Airport.
Two days later, CAAS explained that this was because the Malaysia Airlines subsidiary had not received approval from its regulator, CAAM, to make the move.
Firefly had first agreed in 2014 that it would transfer all operations to a new passenger terminal to be built at Seletar to handle turboprop flights, which it operates.
According to CAAM, there are regulatory issues that need to be resolved between the civil aviation authorities of both countries over the proposed move, as well as outstanding airspace issues.
This has to do with Malaysia wanting to take back air traffic services for airspace over southern Johor, which were delegated to Singapore in 1974.