Malaysia says to meet Singapore officials on airspace, maritime disputes

SINGAPORE: Singapore and Malaysia officials will meet “in the coming weeks” to discuss ongoing disputes about airspace and maritime issues, Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Saturday (Jan 19).

Singapore Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan and his Malaysian counterpart Anthony Loke Siew Fook will meet to “discuss the way forward” on airspace-related issues, including the Instrument Landing System (ILS) and ILS approach procedures for Singapore’s Seletar Airport, the Malaysian ministry said in a press release.

Separately, its secretary-general Muhammad Shahrul Ikram Yaakob will meet Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Permanent Secretary Chee Wee Kiong on Jan 28. This meeting will be on maritime issues, as well as legal and operational matters to de-escalate the situation on the ground, the ministry said.

READ: Singapore will take ‘appropriate measures’ to safeguard its interest: Vivian Balakrishnan

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“The Government of Malaysia is committed to resolve bilateral issues with the Government of Singapore in a peaceful and calm manner,” it said, adding that diplomatic efforts are under way to find amicable solutions to the issues.

The two countries have been embroiled in a dispute over Singapore’s introduction of new ILS procedures for Seletar Airport, which Malaysia said would hamper the construction of tall buildings at Johor’s Pasir Gudang, to the north of the airport. Singapore has disagreed with this.

Another dispute over maritime issues 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.

READ: Singapore security agencies ordered to ‘exercise restraint and avoid escalating tensions’, says Ng Eng Hen

On Jan 12, Singapore postponed joint ministerial committee talks with Malaysia on Iskandar, following an “unauthorised visit” by Johor Chief Minister Osman Sapian to Malaysian government vessel Pedoman, which was anchored in Singapore waters.

Mr Osman’s “provocative act” had made the meeting “untenable”, Singapore said.

READ: Singapore, Malaysia maritime dispute: A timeline

In its press release on Saturday, Malaysia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said the two countries’ foreign ministers met at an ASEAN retreat in Chiang Mai on Thursday and Friday.

“Despite recent incidents that seemed to undermine on-going diplomatic efforts, Dato’ Saifuddin Abdullah received a letter with positive undertones from Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, whom he also met at the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat in Chiang Mai,” the ministry said.

“These continuing efforts signify the steadfast commitment of Malaysia to pursue diplomatic solutions to bilateral issues with its closest neighbour Singapore, in a peaceful and constructive manner, on the basis of equality and mutual respect,” it added.