Singapore-Indonesia agreements will apply simultaneously to reduce misunderstandings, allow future cooperation: SM Teo
SINGAPORE: The recently signed set of agreements between Singapore and Indonesia must enter into force simultaneously to reduce misunderstandings and form a "strong basis" for future cooperation, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean told Parliament on Monday (Feb 14).
The agreements, signed in Bintan on Jan 25 during the the 5th Singapore-Indonesia Leader’s Retreat, address the longstanding bilateral issues of Flight Information Region (FIR) alignment, defence cooperation and extradition of fugitives between both countries.
"Both countries have agreed that the best way to resolve these three outstanding issues is actually to discuss them together, come to agreements on them at the same time, and then to bring them into force concurrently," said Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security.
"That will provide the resolution to all these three outstanding issues at the same time, and I think that will bring many benefits to both countries, so that it would reduce any chances of misunderstandings and provide a very strong basis for future cooperation."
Mr Teo was responding to MP Vikram Nair (PAP-Sembawang), who posed a follow-up question to his ministerial statement on the agreement. Mr Nair had asked what would become of the agreements if they were not all ratified at the same time.
Mr Teo said both countries had agreed to bring into force the three agreements simultaneously for "good reason", adding that negotiations were conducted concurrently and achieved a "good balance of benefits" across all three agreements.
"In any negotiation ... of course each side would want to push for its maximum benefits. But to have a good outcome, each side also has to look at the wider benefits, the wider interests that come from working together and arriving at an agreement rather than not having an agreement," he said.
"In these negotiations, both sides took that view that it is actually in our shared interest, in our enlightened self-interest, to come to an agreement on these three outstanding issues so that we can progress our bilateral relations on a broader front."
DETAILS OF THE AGREEMENTS
Under the FIR agreement, the countries have agreed to realign the boundary between Jakarta FIR and Singapore FIR, something that Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said will ensure civil aviation safety and allow Changi Airport to grow as an international hub.
Indonesia will delegate to Singapore the provision of air navigation services in portions of the airspace within the realigned Jakarta FIR. This delegation arrangement will remain in force for 25 years and can be extended by mutual consent.
Under the Defence Cooperation Agreement, Singapore and Indonesia will continue to strengthen defence partnerships and deepen cooperation in mutually beneficial areas. The agreement will be in force for 25 years.
When this agreement comes into force, it will provide clarity on the arrangements for the Singapore Armed Forces' training in Indonesian archipelagic and territorial waters and airspace, with full respect for Indonesia’s sovereignty over its territory, while preserving Singapore’s rights, Mr Teo said in his ministerial statement.
Finally under the Extradition Treaty (ET), Singapore and Indonesia will grant extradition for a comprehensive list of extraditable offences covered by the treaty.
Mr Teo said this treaty is substantively similar to the one both countries signed in 2007, with the only change being its retrospective application to extradite fugitives for crimes committed 18 years ago, as compared to 15 years in the 2007 agreement.
"This change was made at Indonesia’s request. We believe that the extension will provide more flexibility in the scope of cooperation for both countries," he said, adding that it will strengthen cooperation between law enforcement agencies in both countries.
"Our hope is that the ET will also be helpful to Indonesia’s own efforts to prevent suspected criminals from fleeing overseas, and for them to be apprehended in Indonesia."
HOW THE AGREEMENTS CAME TO BE
Negotiations over the first two agreements have taken place over the years, Mr Teo said in his ministerial statement, and were concluded in 2007 with an agreement to implement them simultaneously. However, the agreements were not ratified by Indonesia.
In 2019, Indonesian President Joko Widodo was elected to a second term, and he and Mr Lee agreed that the conditions were right to discuss and resolve the outstanding issues decisively, in an open, constructive and mutually beneficial manner, Mr Teo said.
"PM Lee and President Jokowi tasked me and (Indonesian) Coordinating Minister Luhut (Pandjaitan), whom I know well, to put maximum effort into this," he said.
In April 2021 over the course negotiations, the countries expanded this framework of agreements to include the Extradition Treaty at Indonesia's request, Mr Teo said, adding that the countries have worked on this issue before.
"It was in our interests to reach an agreement on the extradition of fugitives that would strengthen our bilateral cooperation in tackling criminal matters," he added.
"The inclusion of the ET would help conclude a set of agreements on these three outstanding issues that would be acceptable to both sides."
Mr Teo said Singapore had a "capable and collective" negotiating team who identified the country's interests clearly and pushed for them "energetically and diplomatically".
"We had capable and committed negotiating partners too on the Indonesian side, who also worked very hard to push for their interests," he added.
"But both sides also knew that we had a shared interest in closer bilateral cooperation and the benefits that that would bring."
Both countries are currently going through their respective domestic processes to ratify these agreements, Mr Teo said, adding that both Mr Lee and Mr Widodo have expressed their desire to ratify and bring these agreements into force simultaneously soon.
"I am confident that when implemented, these agreements will create opportunities for even closer collaborations in civil aviation, criminal matters and defence cooperation, and also pave the way for us to advance our bilateral relations with Indonesia with friendship, mutual trust and confidence," Mr Teo said.