Singapore and Jakarta agree on maritime borders in eastern Singapore strait

Singapore and Indonesia have agreed on their maritime boundaries in the eastern part of the Strait of Singapore and will sign a treaty during President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's three-day state visit to Singapore, which starts today. -- PHOTO: AFP
Singapore and Indonesia have agreed on their maritime boundaries in the eastern part of the Strait of Singapore and will sign a treaty during President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's three-day state visit to Singapore, which starts today. -- PHOTO: AFP

Both sides to sign treaty on maritime boundaries in eastern S'pore strait

Singapore and Indonesia have agreed on their maritime boundaries in the eastern part of the Strait of Singapore and will sign a treaty during President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's three-day state visit to Singapore, which starts today.

Dr Yudhoyono will also receive the Order of Temasek (First Class), Singapore's highest decoration for foreign leaders, in a ceremony tomorrow.

Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday said in a statement: "It is being conferred on President Yudhoyono for his positive contributions to the relationship between Singapore and Indonesia during his 10 years in office."

He will be the second Indonesian leader to receive the honour, which was given to president Suharto in 1974 during his state visit that year for his contribution to the development of Singapore-Indonesia relations.

That visit saw both countries exchange instruments of ratification for their first maritime boundary agreement, which demarcated the boundary along the central part of the strait and was inked in 1973.

Dr Yudhoyono's visit this week comes less than two months before he leaves office on Oct 20 after a decade in the job, during which bilateral ties grew significantly in spite of occasional strains.

He has also focused on improving relations with Indonesia's immediate neighbours.

The agreement on the delimitation of the territorial seas of the two countries in the eastern part of the Strait of Singapore, to be signed tomorrow, covers the border between Changi and Batam.

Agreement on boundaries in the western section, between Sultan Shoal and Pulau Nipa, was reached in 2009, and one outstanding stretch remains to be demarcated, between Pedra Branca and Bintan.

That will, however, have to wait for talks between Singapore and Malaysia on delimiting maritime boundaries around Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge.

Dr Yudhoyono's presidential spokesman for international affairs, Dr Teuku Faizasyah, said that the momentum of this week's signing would hopefully strengthen bilateral ties further, and could be an example for others in the region on how negotiations could resolve maritime challenges.

He added that close ties between Indonesia and Singapore were a necessity for the two neighbours.

"In the last 10 years, the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has increasingly consolidated bilateral cooperation, especially in areas of shared priority," he said.

Both countries are each other's key trade and investment partners, and last year saw 1.4 million visitor arrivals to Indonesia from Singapore, and 3.1 million arrivals from Indonesia to Singapore.

During his visit, Dr Yudhoyono will attend a welcome ceremony and separate meetings with President Tony Tan Keng Yam, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.

PM Lee will host a lunch for him while President Tan will host a state banquet in his honour.

Dr Yudhoyono will be accompanied by his wife, Mrs Ani Yudhoyono, as well as a high-level delegation.

zakirh@sph.com.sg