Singapore, Malaysia to begin talks on delimiting maritime boundaries for Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge

A view of Pedra Branca and the Middle Rocks taken on April 4, 2017. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore and Malaysia are to begin negotiations on delimiting the maritime boundaries around Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge.

In a joint statement on Wednesday (Jan 22), Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and his Malaysian counterpart, Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, said that officials from both sides met to continue discussions on implementing the International Court of Justice's (ICJ) judgment over the sovereignty of Pedra Branca and the other two maritime features.

Discussions of the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Technical Committee (MSJTC) were held in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday and were led by Mr Chee Wee Kiong, Permanent Secretary of Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and his Malaysian counterpart, Datuk Seri Muhammad Shahrul Ikram Yaakob.

"The meeting continued discussions on related issues arising from the ICJ Judgment on the Case Concerning Sovereignty over Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge," the statement said.

"This follows the desire expressed by the Prime Ministers of Malaysia and Singapore at the Ninth Malaysia-Singapore Leaders' Retreat in Kuala Lumpur on 9 April 2019 for both sides to resolve outstanding bilateral maritime boundary delimitation issues in the area," it added.

The meeting agreed for the Sub-Committee on Maritime Boundary Delimitation of Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge to start negotiations.

The ninth MSJTC meeting will take place in Singapore before the next bilateral leaders' retreat, the joint statement said.

The dispute between Singapore and Malaysia over Pedra Branca's sovereignty was resolved in 2008 when the ICJ awarded it to Singapore.

Malaysia had staked a claim to Pedra Branca, located about 40km off eastern Singapore, in December 1979, when it published a new map of its territorial waters and continental shelf boundaries.

Singapore protested against the map in February 1980.

The issue, along with the dispute over the sovereignty of Middle Rocks and South Ledge, was brought to the ICJ in 2003.

In 2008, the ICJ awarded Pedra Branca to Singapore, Middle Rocks to Malaysia, and said South Ledge, a rock formation visible only at low tide, belongs to whoever owns the territorial waters it sits in.

Malaysia filed an application to revise that judgment on Feb 2, 2017, citing new evidence, and a second application asking the ICJ to interpret that same judgment on June 30, 2017.

However, the new Malaysian government, formed after the country's general election in May 2018, informed the ICJ on May 28 that year that it had decided not to proceed.

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