Singapore-Malaysia working group holds 'constructive discussions' on maritime issues

Singapore-Malaysia working group holds 'constructive discussions' on maritime issues

Singapore Malaysia border Causeway
An aerial view taken from a helicopter shows Singapore (left) and Malaysia's southern state of Johor on Feb 2, 2016. (Photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

SINGAPORE: Representatives from Singapore and Malaysia held "constructive discussions" on Monday (Jan 28) when a working group set up to iron out maritime issues involving the port limits of both countries met for the first time. 

The working group was established following the Jan 8 meeting between the foreign affairs ministers of both countries. 

It was tasked with discussing legal and operational matters, in order to de-escalate the situation on the ground and provide a basis for further discussions and negotiations. 

"The two delegations had constructive discussions on a set of positive recommendations which will be submitted to the foreign ministers of Malaysia and Singapore for their consideration when finalised," said a joint press statement by the two foreign affairs ministries on Monday. 

The working group, which held its first meeting in Putrajaya, is headed by the Permanent Secretary of Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Chee Wee Kiong and the Secretary-General of the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Muhammad Shahrul Ikram Yaakob.

READ: Singapore, Malaysia maritime dispute: A timeline

The maritime dispute was sparked by Malaysia's unilateral decision to extend the Johor Bahru port limits last October, and the subsequent intrusion of Malaysian government vessels in Singapore waters.

Singapore lodged a "strong protest" with the Malaysian government in response, saying Malaysia's extension encroaches into Singapore's territorial waters off Tuas. Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan added that Malaysia's actions are "a serious violation of Singapore’s sovereignty and international law".

Singapore and Malaysia are also locked in a dispute over airspace. 

Both sides had agreed last week to extend the mutual suspension of the Pasir Gudang restricted area and Instrument Landing System (ILS) procedures at Seletar Airport until the end of March.

READ: Malaysia, Singapore agree to suspend permanent restricted area over Pasir Gudang, ILS for Seletar Airport

This is to give officials more discussion time to reach a win-win outcome, said Mr Khaw after a meeting with his Malaysian counterpart Anthony Loke.

Source: CNA/nh(gs)