Singapore-Malaysia to meet in second week of January 2019

SINGAPORE: Singapore welcomes the Malaysian government’s agreement that officials of both countries meet in the second week of January 2019 to exchange views on resolving the Johor Bahru port limits issue, Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said in a statement here yesterday.

The ministry said the republic “is encouraged that Malaysia has undertaken to take all effective measures to de-escalate the situation on the ground, and handle the situation in a calm and peaceful manner”.

At the same time, it said Singapore reiterates its call to Malaysia to revert to the status quo prior to Oct 25, 2018.

“This will avoid misunderstandings and potential issues on the ground. Malaysia’s deployments in this area will not strengthen its legal claim and can only heighten tensions.

“Malaysia will be responsible for any untoward situations on the ground that arises from continued deployment of its vessels into this area,” it said in response to a statement issued by Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday.

The ministry said the republic is “disappointed that Malaysia is unable to accede to Singapore’s proposal to go back to the status quo ante prior to Oct 25, 2018.”

Earlier today, Malaysia’s MFA said the government of Malaysia is unable to accede to Singapore’s counterproposal.

Malaysia had on Dec 8 proposed for both countries to mutually cease and desist sending assets into the disputed area effective 12am on the next day with a view of promoting de-escalation of tensions on the ground, pending discussions on outstanding maritime boundary issues. But it was turned down by the republic.

In Singapore MFA’s statement, it informed that on Dec 7, its Home Affairs Minister and Law Minister K Shanmugam and Attorney-General Lucien Wong met with the Malaysian Attorney-General Tommy Thomas to “discuss these and other issues”.

The MFA said Singapore officials proposed to Attorney-General Thomas that Malaysia returns to the status quo ante prior to Oct 25, 2018, without prejudice to Malaysia and Singapore’s respective positions on the maritime boundary between the two countries in the area which Malaysia now claims.

“Maritime boundary claims can be made under international law, in accordance with established procedures, without needing to have ships facing off against one another,” said the statement.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was just reported as saying that Malaysian vessels will stay put in the disputed waters along the Malaysia-Singapore maritime border. – Bernama

He said they will continue to be there until the negotiation process on the maritime border between the two countries is settled. – Bernama