Singapore, Malaysia foreign ministers to meet Jan 8 amid airspace, maritime dispute

Singapore, Malaysia foreign ministers to meet Jan 8 amid airspace, maritime dispute

Seletar Airport file photo
Seletar Airport. (File photo: TODAY)

SINGAPORE: Singapore and Malaysia's foreign ministers will meet in Singapore on Jan 8, Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said on Tuesday (Jan 1). 

It comes as the two countries are locked in a dispute over territorial waters and airspace

“Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat visited Putrajaya, Malaysia on Dec 31, 2018 to convey a message to Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, on behalf of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong," said an MFA spokesperson in response to media queries. 

MFA added that there are plans for both countries' transport ministers to meet soon.

READ: Singapore, Malaysia airspace dispute: What we know and timeline

READ: Malaysia wants to 'reclaim delegated airspace' in southern Johor

Singapore Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan had earlier said that Singapore was gearing up for talks over the maritime issue in January and was planning to negotiate “in good faith”.

Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said the meeting on Jan 8 will also touch on airspace issues.

Bernama quoted Mr Abdullah as saying the airspace dispute was one of the issues that was discussed in the meeting between Dr Mahathir and DPM Teo on Monday.

"My visit to Singapore is a continuation of the meeting yesterday. There are several issues, but the one that must be given immediate attention is Singapore’s plans for the Seletar Airport which will pass through the airspace over Pasir Gudang, Johor," Mr Abdullah was quoted as saying. 

"We protested and declared the airspace a restricted area, and this will be a problem to Singapore. I am confident the issue will be discussed well to find a win-win solution for both countries,” he added. 

On Tuesday, Dr Mahathir welcomed remarks made by Mr Lee in the latter’s New Year message.

Mr Lee had said Singapore will “calmly and constructively” deal with disputes with Malaysia, adding that both countries must manage specific problems while persevering their overall relationship.

Speaking to students as part of a back-to-school programme in Langkawi, Dr Mahathir said problems between the two countries can be solved by negotiation.

"I welcome (Mr Lee’s) statement," Malaysian media reported Dr Mahathir as saying. 

"Yes, we have a good relationship with Singapore; there are problems but they can be solved by negotiation rather than by confrontation or criticism through the media."

READ: Malaysia sends 2 protest notes to Singapore over airspace and maritime disputes

Under the current arrangement, management of the airspace over southern Johor is delegated to Singapore, meaning that Singapore provides air traffic control services in that airspace.

This arrangement was agreed upon in 1973 by Malaysia, Singapore and other regional states, and subsequently approved by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). 

A bilateral agreement was then signed between Malaysia and Singapore in 1974. However, Malaysia says it now wants to reclaim this "delegated airspace", with Malaysia's Transport Minister Anthony Loke citing concerns over sovereignty and national interest. 

Mr Khaw has said Malaysia seems to be using a "technical excuse" to change airspace arrangements in southern Johor.

READ: Southern Johor airspace arrangements 'have worked well', any changes will affect many: MOT

Separately, Singapore's Ministry of Transport (MOT) on Tuesday said that it has raised its concerns with Malaysia over the establishment of a restricted area over Pasir Gudang. 

"On Dec 25, 2018, the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia published a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM). 

"By this NOTAM, Malaysia has informed the aviation community of its establishment of a permanent restricted area for the purpose of military activities over Pasir Gudang with effect from Jan 2, 2019," said MOT in response to media queries. 

The restricted area, being within a controlled and congested airspace, will impact the existing and normal operations of aircraft transiting through the airspace, said MOT. 

"We have raised with Malaysia our concerns over the restricted area’s adverse impact on civil aviation," said the ministry, adding that Singapore has proposed to meet with Malaysia to discuss the issue. 

Source: CNA/ad

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