Hopes of a resolution to the air and maritime tensions between Singapore and Malaysia have been raised after a meeting between their foreign ministers earlier this week. The separate disputes, over territorial waters off Tuas and airspace management over southern Johor, put a strain on ties between two countries which have had close and strong relations rooted in geography, history, society and culture. Yet, for several weeks recently, the longstanding relationship was again overshadowed by dissension that touched on Singapore's territorial integrity, including the sight of Malaysian government vessels anchored in Singapore's waters. Singaporeans could have been forgiven for wondering what had gone wrong so seriously, so suddenly.
That ominous mood was lifted with the announcement on Tuesday that Malaysia will suspend immediately its permanent restricted area over Pasir Gudang for flights, while Singapore will do the same for new aircraft landing procedures for Seletar Airport. The arrangement will be for a month in the first instance. Also, the transport ministers of both countries should meet soon for discussions to ensure the safety and efficiency of civil aviation. On maritime issues, a high-level working group will be set up to study and discuss legal and operational matters in order to de-escalate the situation on the ground, and provide a basis for further discussions and negotiations. Oddly, amid this sign of progress, came the social media posting on Wednesday of Johor Menteri Besar Osman Sapian visiting Malaysian government vessels moored in Singapore's territorial waters.