Parliament: Joint working group on S'pore-Malaysia maritime dispute to give proposals soon, says Vivian Balakrishnan

Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said officials have been meeting to discuss measures to de-escalate the situation on the ground, and are aware of the urgent need to prevent accidents and untoward incidents.
Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said officials have been meeting to discuss measures to de-escalate the situation on the ground, and are aware of the urgent need to prevent accidents and untoward incidents.PHOTO: GOV.SG

SINGAPORE - A joint working group looking into the maritime border dispute between Singapore and Malaysia will submit its recommendations to the foreign ministers of the two countries early this month.

In an update on Friday (March 1), Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said officials have been meeting to discuss measures to de-escalate the situation on the ground, and are aware of the urgent need to prevent accidents and untoward incidents.

Last month, the Greek-registered bulk carrier Pireas collided with Malaysian government vessel Polaris, which was illegally anchored in Singapore's territorial waters.

Dr Balakrishnan told Parliament that while several issues with Malaysia have emerged in recent months, the Government is committed to resolving them in an "amicable and constructive manner, and in strict accordance with bilateral agreements and international law".

Besides the maritime dispute, the two countries are in disagreement over Singapore's introduction of new landing procedures for Seletar Airport and Malaysia's subsequent decision to declare a restricted zone over Pasir Gudang for the purpose of military activities.

Both countries have agreed to mutually suspend the measures until the end of March 2019.

On Friday, MPs Vikram Nair (Sembawang GRC) and Dr Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim (Nee Soon GRC) asked for updates on the disputes during the debate on the Foreign Affairs Ministry's budget.

 
 
 
 

On the landing procedures and airspace issues, Dr Balakrishnan said the transport ministers and senior officials from both sides have been meeting to discuss the matters.

"And again, we look forward to finding a solution that is mutually agreeable, and - fortunately or unfortunately - in my capacity as Acting Transport Minister, this is also my problem at this point in time," he added.

Dr Balakrishnan is standing in for Mr Khaw Boon Wan, who underwent minor surgery for a fractured left arm on Friday morning.

Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman also said in Malay: "As close neighbours, issues will naturally surface from time to time that we have to deal with.

"What is important is how we deal with them - discussing in good faith, complying with international law and honouring existing agreements."

He added: "Despite these current difficulties, Singapore still hopes to work with Malaysia for better relations, and for closer long-term cooperation that will benefit the citizens of both sides."