Singapore, Indonesia sign treaty on maritime borders in eastern Singapore strait

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (left) and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (right) look on as Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa (second from left) exchanges the treaty with Singapore Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam (se
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (left) and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (right) look on as Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa (second from left) exchanges the treaty with Singapore Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam (second from right) after both parties signed the treaty between the Republic of Indonesia and the Republic of Singapore relating to the delimitation of the territorial seas of the two countries in the eastern part of the Strait of Singapore. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

THE foreign ministers of Singapore and Indonesia have signed a treaty demarcating maritime boundaries in the eastern stretch of the Singapore Strait, covering a 5.1 nautical mile (9.45 km) stretch between Changi and Batam.

Mr K Shanmugam and his Indonesian counterpart, Dr Marty Natalegawa, inked the pact in Singapore at the Istana on Wednesday as visiting Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong looked on.

Both countries also signed two annexes to the agreement.

The treaty relating to the delimitation of the territorial seas of the two countries in the eastern part of the Strait of Singapore is the second maritime boundary pact to be signed under Dr Yudhoyono's administration.

Officials and observers from both sides see it as a demonstration of how Indonesia and Singapore have been able to work together in areas of mutual interest.  

Indonesia's presidential spokesman for foreign affairs Teuku Faizasyah described the pact as a "monumental achievement" that could set the tone for strengthening bilateral ties further.

Technical discussions on the treaty began in Singapore in June 2011, and were followed by nine more rounds in total, with meetings alternating between the two countries.

The final round of negotiations was held on Aug 18-19 in Medan, and it was then that both sides finalised the deal.  

Both sides agreed on the maritime boundary along the central part of the Singapore Strait in 1973. They also reached agreement on boundaries in the western section, between Sultan Shoal and Pulau Nipa, in 2009.

One outstanding stretch remains to be demarcated between Pedra Branca and Bintan. But 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 is on a three-day state visit to Singapore and will be conferred the Order of Temasek (First Class), the highest honour non-Singaporeans can receive, on Wednesday evening.

In the morning, he received a ceremonial welcome at the Istana where he was greeted by Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam.

The former four-star general, who will step down from office on Oct 20 after serving two five-year terms, saluted as the national anthems of both countries were played.

He had a meeting with the Singapore president, followed by another meeting with Prime Minister Lee, before the treaty was signed.

After the signing, PM Lee hosted Dr Yudhoyono and his delegation to lunch at the Istana.

zakirh@sph.com.sg