SINGAPORE: A committee set up to discuss boundary delimitation in the waters between Singapore and Malaysia has held “constructive discussions” in its first meeting, said Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) on Wednesday (May 15).
The committee, which was established following a meeting between the foreign ministers of both countries in March, met in Singapore on Monday.
It is chaired by Mr Chee Wee Kiong, Singapore’s Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Mr Muhammad Shahrul Ikram Yaakob, Malaysia’s Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In a press statement on Wednesday evening, Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the committee agreed to establish a sub-committee to “address the legal and technical aspects of delimitation”.
The sub-committee will be headed by the director-general of the Department of Maritime Affairs of the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the director-general of the International Affairs Division of the Singapore Attorney-General’s Chambers.
In the meeting, the committee also agreed upon “practical modalities for operational agencies to avoid untoward incidents on the ground”.
“Both Malaysia and Singapore are determined to resolve the maritime boundary issue and have agreed to the format of scheduled meetings to ensure continued progress on the matter,” said the ministry.
“With the commencement of this Committee for Boundary Delimitation, all the recommendations under the Working Group established on Jan 8 2019 by the Foreign ministers of Malaysia and Singapore have been successfully implemented.”
“The two delegations had constructive discussions on maritime boundary delimitation which provided a good basis for further negotiations,” said a Singapore MFA spokesperson in response to CNA’s queries.
“The next meeting will be held in Malaysia.”
Earlier, the Malaysian High Commission in Singapore noted in a Facebook post that the meeting was held “successfully”.
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Malaysia had on Oct 25 gazetted an extension of its Johor Bahru port limits in a manner which Singapore said encroaches into its territorial waters off Tuas.
On Dec 6, Singapore extended its port limits off Tuas, and said it will not hesitate to take “firm actions” against the intrusion of Malaysian government vessels in its waters.
Singapore had also protested “provocative acts” by Malaysia, including a visit by former Johor Chief Minister Osman Sapian to a Malaysian vessel parked in Singapore waters.
On Mar 14, the foreign ministers of both sides agreed to mutually suspend the implementation of their overlapping port limits, as part of measures to dial down tensions.
Other measures announced include the suspension of commercial activities in the area, as well as an agreement not to anchor government vessels there.
Singapore and Malaysia also agreed to establish a committee for boundary delimitation, which will ensure the implementation of the measures within one month. After that, negotiations for maritime boundary delimitation in the area will begin.
The mutual suspension of overlapping port limits took effect on Apr 8.
Last week, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in Parliament that the committee would meet “soon” to start negotiations on maritime boundary delimitation.