JAKARTA: The leaders of Singapore and Indonesia will meet in person during a retreat to be held later this year, said the foreign ministers of both countries on Thursday (Mar 25).
In a joint press conference, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said: "I think in our earlier discussion, we had looked at, particularly Bintan. And perhaps that as being a site for which we can convene our Leaders' Retreat."
"So the Leaders' Retreat will proceed this year, watch out for the date. Our two leaders will meet in person," he said, adding that there will be a full agenda.
His Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi said: "We agreed to propose to our leaders to have the in-person Leaders' Retreat in 2021.
"This year, the key theme of our cooperation is how we recover together from the pandemic," she added.
Mdm Marsudi revealed three issues to be highlighted, namely investment cooperation, cautious preparation for reviving the travel and tourism sector as well digital economy cooperation.
Dr Balakrishnan noted that during the COVID-19 pandemic, both sides managed to make substantial progress on the bilateral front.
As both countries are now seeing the number of COVID-19 infections coming down and are rolling their vaccination programmes, he said it is time to start planning and collaborating on post-COVID-19 recovery.
"So the ideas which have resulted will now be implemented in the coming months to come," he said.
On the economic front, the minister said that Singapore has remained the largest foreign investor in Indonesia for six years in a row.
"And last year, despite the challenges, the FDI (foreign direct investment) into Indonesia from Singapore went up almost 50 per cent. It reflects the vote of confidence in Indonesia, in the prospects of economic growth, and confidence in Indonesia’s future. And this happened in the time of a crisis."
He also touched on bilateral projects including the Kendal Industrial Park in Central Java, which he said has been progressing well.
He said there is now a need to promote the development of a port to support the industrial park's development.
Touching on the digital park in Nongsa, Batam, he said: "I'm very proud to see that develop.
"We actually now have a digital bridge from Singapore to Batam. And as globalisation and digital revolution are going on, I see great prospects for that bridge to become a vibrant connector."
He believed that the digital park will bring opportunities for youths in Singapore as well as in Indonesia.
Commenting on tourism, Dr Balakrishnan said that he met Indonesia's tourism minister Sandiaga Uno earlier in the day.
"We are looking at, as the situation improves ... gradual and safe reopening of travel arrangements. And again we are looking at areas of mutual interest, he said.
Over the weekend, Mr Uno said preparations can begin for a “safe travel corridor” between Singapore, Batam Nongsa and Bintan Lagoi.
READ: Singapore-Batam-Bintan 'travel corridor' meant for Singapore tourists only, says Indonesian minister
Earlier on Thursday, Mr Uno said in a press conference that the two countries will discuss the details of the travel corridor. He said Dr Balakrishnan has invited him to visit Singapore to try the route from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal to Batam Nongsa and Bintan Lagoi.
"We will continue to increase the discussion to a more detailed level. Hopefully, in the next few weeks we can convey the progress," said Mr Uno.
Mr Uno said that the details and the date of the travel arrangement were still being finalised, including whether Apr 21 can be the opening date as he initially suggested.
He also revealed that both sides have discussed a possible travel corridor between Singapore and Bali, as there may be Singaporeans who want to work from Bali.
SINGAPORE, INDONESIA FOREIGN MINISTERS BACK SUMMIT ON MYANMAR
Dr Balakrishnan and Mdm Marsudi also discussed the latest situation in Myanmar.
“We are both very distressed by the situation in Myanmar. I can say that the position that both Indonesia and Singapore take are virtually identical," said Dr Balakrishnan.
"We are gravely concerned with the situation. We’re distressed by the loss of human life, by the use of lethal arms on unarmed civilians.
"We both believe that national reconciliation needs to occur and can only occur if both sides actually sit down in good faith, negotiate, and find a solution that works for Myanmar for the long term."
Dr Balakrishnan stated that both countries believe that there should be no foreign interference but ASEAN is ready to help.
"And therefore, we also support our leaders getting together to generate a common position in which ASEAN can express its support for Myanmar. So there’s a lot of work that we need to do on that front, therefore, that ASEAN meeting.”
Meanwhile, Mdm Marsudi also said that Indonesia is concerned with the situation in Myanmar.
"We also shared our position to call on the Myanmar military to stop the use of force and prevent further casualties. We also urged Myanmar to start a dialogue to put democracy, peace and stability back on track," said Mdm Marsudi.
"Indonesia and Singapore also support the initiative to hold the ASEAN Leaders’ Summit in the near future. Our goal to achieve an ASEAN Community can only be achieved with the contribution of all ASEAN Members," she added.
Dr Balakrishnan is in Jakarta for a two-day working visit.
Earlier this week, he visited Brunei where he had an audience with Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and was hosted to lunch by Second Minister of Foreign Affairs Erywan Pehin Yusof.
Brunei is currently chair of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Dr Balakrishnan visited Malaysia and both countries reaffirmed their commitment to work towards recognising each other’s COVID-19 vaccine certificates, with a view towards facilitating cross-border travel in the future.
He will head back to Singapore on Friday evening.