SINGAPORE: It is important for Singapore and Malaysia to find win-win solutions that benefit the people of both countries, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat on Tuesday (Jan 8) following a meeting of both sides' foreign affairs ministers on ongoing airspace and maritime disputes.
Mr Heng's comments came hours after both countries decided to simultaneously suspend Malaysia's permanent restricted area in the airspace over Pasir Gudang and Singapore's implementation of the Instrument Landing System (ILS) procedures for Seletar Airport.
He also revealed that he and Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean had met Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in Putrajaya last week to discuss the disputes between Singapore and Malaysia before Tuesday's meeting.
READ: Malaysia, Singapore agree to suspend permanent restricted area over Pasir Gudang, ILS for Seletar Airport
"Glad that, today, Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and his counterpart Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah reached a common understanding on initial steps to resolve airspace and maritime issues," said Mr Heng in a Facebook post.
"Both sides will simultaneously suspend Malaysia’s permanent restricted area over Pasir Gudang, and Singapore’s implementation of the Instrument Landing System procedures for Seletar Airport, for a period of one month in the first instance."
Transport ministers from both countries will also meet soon for discussions on these issues to ensure "to ensure the safety and efficiency of civil aviation in our part of the world", added Mr Heng in the post.
On maritime issues involving the Johor Bahru port limits, both sides have agreed to establish a working group.
The group would study and discuss legal and operational matters, in order to de-escalate the situation on the ground and provide a basis for further discussions and negotiations.
"As neighbours, Singapore and Malaysia have deep historical, economic, cultural, and people-to-people ties," said Mr Heng.
"It is important that we have a constructive and peaceful relationship and find win-win solutions that benefit the peoples of both countries," he added.
The maritime dispute was sparked by Malaysia's unilateral decision to extend the Johor Bahru port limits in October, and the subsequent intrusion of Malaysian government vessels in Singapore waters.
Singapore lodged a "strong protest" with the Malaysian government over the port limits which it said encroaches into Singapore's territorial waters off Tuas. It added in a media statement that Malaysia's actions are "a serious violation of Singapore’s sovereignty and international law".
READ: Malaysia 'seems to be using technical excuse’ to change airspace arrangements: Singapore's Khaw Boon Wan
Separately, Malaysia's transport minister Anthony Loke had said in parliament on Dec 4 that the government wanted to take back control of its "delegated airspace" over southern Johor, citing concerns over sovereignty and national interest.
Malaysia had at the same time objected to Singapore's publication of ILS procedures for Seletar Airport, saying it would restrict the construction of tall buildings at Johor's Pasir Gudang, to the north of Seletar Airport.
Singapore's transport ministry had said that cross-border airspace management is not incompatible with sovereignty, pointing out that instrument flight procedures for some Malaysian airports also extend into the territories of neighbouring states.