Collaboration between Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia to counter terror threat must continue: Vivian

Indonesian President Joko Widodo (right) with Singapore's Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan on Jan 13, 2016. PHOTO: AFP
Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan (left) and Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

JAKARTA - The suicide bomb attack in the Turkish city of Istanbul on Tuesday is another "tragic, unnecessary loss of life", but it is unlikely to be the last such incident, said Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan on Wednesday (Jan 13).

That is why the ongoing collaboration between Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia to counter the threat of terrorism in the region must continue, he added.

"The governments at the highest levels are fully committed to continuing this effort," said Dr Balakrishnan. Such effort includes countering terrorism, fundamentalism and extremism and dealing with the flows of young people, both those going from the region to the Middle East and those returning.

Ten people, mostly German nationals, were killed and 15 others injured after a militant from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) blew himself up in Istanbul's busiest tourist district on Tuesday.

"Our condolences and our thoughts are with the families," said Dr Balakrishnan. "But unfortunately it is not likely to be the last such incident.

"And it just shows why we need to pay attention to this, share information, work collectively and effectively across boundaries, because it's a transnational problem (and) a clear and imminent threat to peace and security all over the world."

The minister was speaking to the Singapore media in Jakarta at the end of his two-day inaugural visit to Indonesia as Singapore's top envoy.

Dr Balakrishnan had earlier on Wednesday called on President Joko Widodo.

He also met his Indonesian counterpart, Ms Retno Marsudi, as well as Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan, among others on the first day of his visit.

"I would say our relationship with Indonesia is long, deep and multi-faceted and it's a healthy relationship," he told reporters. "In fact the key topics that were discussed focused very much on the economy and how Singapore and Indonesia can collaborate in expanding the scope for investments (and) this builds again on a very good pre-existing track record."

On the subject of the transboundary haze crisis, Dr Balakrishnan said Singapore is keen to resume a bilateral project in Indonesia's Jambi Province as party of the country's haze prevention efforts. The initiative had included ways to detect hot spots on a local level, sustainable agriculture and how to deal with and manage hot spots when they arise.

He also said that Mr Joko and Mr Luhut have given him their assurances that they are serious about preventing a repeat of last year's crisis, which led to record levels of air pollution in the region.

"I accept their assurances, it is coming right from the very top... so let's work with them and give them some space to make this happen," he added.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also working towards Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong meeting Mr Joko for their first Leaders' Retreat, "perhaps in the middle or this year".

The meeting between the two leaders is set to be held in Indonesia after Mr Joko called on Mr Lee in Singapore during his introductory visit last year after he was elected in October 2014.

On what his expectations are in regards to how the two countries will address various outstanding bilateral issues, Dr Balakrishnan said: "There will always be issues, we will always do our best to resolve them... but like I said, we will try our best not to allow differences to slow us down, to impede the momentum for growth because we actually have a very full agenda, many things to do together."

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