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Malaysia, Singapore agree to halt commercial activity in disputed zone

Free Malaysia Today logo Free Malaysia Today 14/3/2019 Robin Augustin
Saifuddin Abdullah, Vivian Balakrishnan standing in front of a flower: Malaysia’s Saifuddin Abdullah and his Singapore counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan have agreed that both countries halt sea activities pending settlement on overlapping port limits. © Provided by FMT MEDIA SDN BHD Malaysia’s Saifuddin Abdullah and his Singapore counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan have agreed that both countries halt sea activities pending settlement on overlapping port limits.

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia and Singapore have agreed to suspend all commercial activities in the overlapping zone between Johor Bahru’s port limits off Tanjung Piai and the Singapore port limits off Tuas, following the recent dispute over maritime issues between the two nations.

This was announced by Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah and his Singapore counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan after a bilateral meeting here today.

It was one of several recommendations by the working group looking into the matter that the ministers agreed to adopt.

The others are to mutually suspend the implementation of overlapping port limits and to apply their port limits in effect prior to Oct 25, 2018 and Dec 6, 2018 respectively, and to refrain from authorising any commercial activity in the area.

They also agreed that no government vessels would be anchored in the area, and that all Malaysian and Singapore vessels there would operate in accordance with international law including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

A committee chaired by the secretary-general of Wisma Putra and the permanent secretary of Singapore’s foreign ministry will be established for boundary delimitation, which will ensure that the above recommendations are implemented within a month.

Negotiations for maritime boundary delimitation in the area, meanwhile, will commence within a month after such implementation.

Balakrishnan said the ministers wished to commend the efforts of the working group.

“All these measures are going to be carried out without prejudice to our respective maritime boundary claims in the area.

“This is a step forward,” he added.

Malaysia and Singapore have been locked in a dispute over maritime boundaries, with Singapore pushing back in December against Malaysia’s move to extend the limits of Johor Bahru port. It said the new boundary encroached on Singapore’s territorial waters, which Putrajaya disputed.

Earlier this month, Balakrishnan said the two countries had made reasonable progress in their discussions on maritime borders.

A joint working group had been tasked with submitting recommendations after studying legal and operational matters related to the issue.

On the 1962 Water Agreement, Balakrishnan said the matter had been discussed and that the ministers have differing views on the right to review.

“The attorney-generals of Singapore and Malaysia will continue to discuss the matter,” he said.

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