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Transcript of Press Conference by Minister for Foreign Affairs George Yeo and Indonesia Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda, DEPLU, Gedung Pancasila, 10 March 2009

10 Mar 2009

Minister Hassan Wirajuda: Your Excellency, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Singapore and my good friend Mr George Yeo, distinguished members of the delegations, both Singapore and Indonesia, ladies and gentlemen and friends from the mass media. I would like to express once again my warmest welcome to Foreign Minister George Yeo on this historic occasion. Mr George Yeo is a frequent visitor of Indonesia. In fact only two days ago he visited Makassar as well as Jakarta. But this time his visit is somewhat different from the rest of his visits in Indonesia because as you have witnessed, today we signed the bilateral agreement between the Republic of Indonesia and the Republic of Singapore on the boundary delimitation in territorial seas on the western segment bordering Indonesia and Singapore. Let me congratulate the teams of negotiators on both sides for their goodwill and hard work to produce this agreement after the eight rounds of negotiations that have been conducted since the year 2005.

The last time Indonesia and Singapore signed the delimitation on their territorial waters before this was on 25 May 1973. So this signing is a very welcoming development. I strongly believe that as borders make good neighbours, signing this territorial water boundary agreement will strengthen the bilateral relations between Indonesia and Singapore. Border diplomacy is one of the priority areas of Indonesia's diplomacy. As we are members of... I should have said, as we are bordering with ten countries, Indonesia, we give priority to border negotiations because we, as I said before, by having good borders, we promote good neighbours and good neighbourly relations.

Indonesia and Singapore are party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the agreement just signed certainly reflects the adherence of both Indonesia and Singapore to the principles contained in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. By the completion and signing of this agreement, two governments are determined to continue our negotiations on the eastern segment of maritime border between Indonesia and Singapore. I recall that during a meeting between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President Yudhoyono held in Cha-Am at the margins of the ASEAN Summit, the two leaders said that both Singapore and Indonesia would start negotiations on the eastern segment of the maritime border. In a way, the signing of the maritime border is a historical event and personally, I am privileged to sign together with one of my good friends, George, the agreement just now. Thank you very much.

Minister George Yeo: Dear Pak Hassan, friends, fellow colleagues, ladies and gentlemen of the media, I join Pak Hassan in expressing my joy at the delimitation of the western border. Today's ceremony to sign the agreement, together with the charts and maps, is a happy occasion. I remember agreeing with Pak Hassan at the end of 2004 and in the beginning 2005 on the beginning of the talks. It is not often that Foreign Ministers who begin talks on border delimitation are able to sign it, because these negotiations take time. Both of us feel very honoured and privileged to both initiate those talks and to sign the agreement. As Pak Hassan said, good borders make good neighbours, and we are both signatories to the international treaty of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and we abide by its principles and procedures. This agreement is an important milestone in our bilateral relations. Once the agreement has been ratified by both sides, we look forward to the negotiations on our eastern border, which I hope will be marked with the same spirit of friendship and compromise on both sides.

This reflects the good relationship between both countries. On all the big issues, Indonesia and Singapore mostly share the same views. We have just come back from a successful ASEAN Summit in Thailand where President SBY and Prime Minister Lee had an excellent bilateral meeting. Pak Hassan and I were able to work together to help further the ASEAN agenda. I think looking ahead with the backdrop of the global economic downturn, circumstances will encourage us or even force us to work even more closely together within the framework of ASEAN, furthering the course of regional integration and ensuring that ASEAN has good relations with all its neighbours.

The hard work has been... for this agreement, the hard work has been done by the negotiators from both sides. I thank them, the Indonesia negotiators and the Singapore negotiators, for all the good work put in and I congratulate you on an outcome both sides feel very good about. This is an excellent negotiation where we work towards a win-win outcome and is an asset to good relations. Thank you very much.

Q: I have a question for both Foreign Ministers. I would like to ask the Foreign Ministers what kind of border security is possible and what kind of responsibilities will be supported by your government.

Minister Yeo: We already have coordinated patrols against piracy. At the working level, security forces on both sides have an excellent relationship and share intelligence. We know that if neither side is secure, we will both not be secure. So on that basis, our cooperation is very good and this new border agreement will make our cooperation even better.

Q: I have a question for both Ministers. How about Malaysia? Will it be involved in the discussion on the borders between Singapore and Indonesia? And the ASEAN mechanism can be used to settle the conflict on the border between Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia?

Minister Wirajuda: Actually the western segment of the Indonesia-Singapore maritime border did not touch on Malaysia's interest because the western segment that just got concluded primarily deals with the maritime border between Indonesia and Singapore. For the west and and eastern-most points of this segment of this border then yes, there will be a junction point where Malaysian interests will be a factor, but on this Indonesia is currently negotiating the Indonesia and Malaysian maritime borders on the western part... on the western segment of the Indonesia-Singapore border. On the eastern part, as we have already started negotiations, yes, there will be in a way Malaysia's interests factored in. The recent decision by the International Court of Justice on the status of Pedra Branca or Batu Putih have granted the ownership to Singapore, while on South Ledge, it seems to be... the court did not make any decision. Perhaps it would be then for Malaysia and Singapore to negotiate. I believe that pending the negotiations on the status of Southern Ledge and the waters surrounding this, perhaps then the tri-lateral negotiations between Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore would be need to wait until the negotiations and settlement between Malaysia and Singapore. Or perhaps we can start talking about the eastern most point and lines of the remaining border delimitation.

Minister Yeo: May I just add one point about Malaysia and Singapore with regards to the marking out of the maritime boundaries following the judgment by the International Court of Justice on Pedra Branca and Middle Rocks. We accept the decision of the International Court of Justice and we are now proceeding on the basis of that judgement to delimit the borders concerned through the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Technical Committee.

Q: Is the ASEAN mechanism going to be used?

Minister Yeo: No, ASEAN is not involved in this process. This is bilateral and then there are the tri-junction points. Altogether there are four tri-junction points, one in the east, one in the east and two at Pedra Branca. Those will have to be settled tri-laterally.

Q: And there will be no contest from the Malaysia on the map of 1979?

Minister Yeo: So far as Pedra Branca is concerned, that has already been settled by the ICJ.

Q: Judging from the negotiation progress on the western part, how would it be like... I mean will Indonesia now process the eastern part? Is there any line where it says that we also need to move towards regional integration under the ASEAN community, there will be then a time frame to conclude the negotiations on the eastern part? And my second question, is there any decision to resume the Extradition Treaty and DCA between the two countries?

Minister Wirajuda: On the negotiations between Indonesia and Singapore on the maritime border on the eastern segment, I believe the successful completion and the signing of the agreement between Indonesia and Singapore on the western segment will give us a good lesson that by abiding to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea of which Singapore and Indonesia are parties to, I think we can be equally optimistic that the negotiations on the eastern segment will be a successful one as well.

Q: Will there be a time frame?

Minister Wirajuda: Speaking of time frames on border negotiations, the one we just signed, it took us five years to complete. In the case of Indonesia and Vietnam on the case of the delimitation of the Continental Shelf Boundary, it took us 32 years to complete. But as I said in my remarks, I appreciate that the agreement was drawn up against the goodwill and cooperation of both delegations. For that matter, they were able to conclude the agreement in a reasonable time, in just five years.

Q: What about the ET and the DCA?

Minister Wirajuda: Well, we both, Singapore and Indonesia, agreed that for the time being, we will put these questions aside.

Q: Now that both countries have signed the treaty, may I know when the agreement will be sent to parliament for ratification?

Minister Wirajuda: Most likely the government of Indonesia will submit the agreement to our parliament for ratification after the election. I think they will have much more free time after the elections to consider and discuss with the government and this is important. I mean, the ratification is important because it is an important landmark in our bilateral relations and it will strengthen the relations between Indonesia and Singapore further.

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