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Transcript of Joint Press Conference by His Excellency Dato' Saifuddin Abdullah, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia and His Excellency Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Singapore, in Putrajaya, Malaysia, 14 March 2019

14 March 2019

Minister SaifuddinSalaam-Alaikum and a very good afternoon, His Excellency Foreign Minister Vivian, ladies and gentlemen. As you may recall, FM Vivian and I last met in Singapore on 8th of January this year. During our meeting, we stated our commitment to jointly resolve the maritime issues surrounding the port limits of both our countries. Primarily, we agreed it was necessary to establish a working group led by our senior-most officials – the Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from Malaysia, and the Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Ministry of Singapore – to discuss the legal and operational matters in order to de-escalate the situation on the ground and provide a firm basis for further discussions and negotiations moving forward.

 

Both countries have demonstrated a deep commitment to reach an amicable solution, and the working group held intensive discussions to fulfil that mandate given within the two months stipulated time frame. The result of this discussion is a set of five recommendations aimed at resolving the situation on the ground while paving the way for maritime boundary delimitation of the area. We have discussed the working group's recommendations today. We have agreed to implement these recommendations, and the recommendations outlined in the joint press statement that we will be issuing shortly. We are so joined in the way we do things that you will notice that even our joint press statement is jointly presented.

 

Minister Vivian: Thank you Dato’ Saifuddin. As Foreign Minister has just shared, we are actually reading from the same talking points. We believe these recommendations are measures that will help us to resolve the situation on the ground. And the proposal is to suspend the implementation of our currently overlapping port limits, and that Malaysia and Singapore will therefore revert to the port limits that were in effect prior to the 25th of October 2018, and the 6th of December 2018 respectively. All of these measures are going to be carried out without prejudice to our respective maritime boundary claims in the area. After these measures are implemented, we will commence negotiations for the maritime boundary delimitation in the relevant area within a month. Under the recommendations, a committee for boundary delimitation will be established. The committee will be chaired by the Secretary General of the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Permanent Secretary of the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

 

I think on behalf of both of us, we want to commend the excellent work that has been done by both the Secretary General and Permanent Secretary of our respective ministries. They have very successfully fulfilled the mandate which we gave them, and they did so within the timeframe that we set for them. I believe this is a positive, a constructive, a concrete step forward for both Malaysia and Singapore, and is reflective of our mutual commitment to work together, to resolve our bilateral issues amicably, and to preserve our strong and positive bilateral relationship.

 

Minister Saifuddin: I think I echo Foreign Minister Vivian, that we must commend the work of the team. If you agree with me, I think we should invite the two gentlemen to stand up and be recognized. My Chief Secretary Shahrul and Permanent Secretary Wee Kiong. They spend more time together than both of us, and we are quite jealous of that. We welcome the establishment of this committee to bring us forward, and look forward to commencing discussions on maritime boundaries negotiation. I think I can speak for Vivian too, that when I say we look forward to the successful implementation of the working group recommendation, I think this is one step forward in trying to better understand and avoid, as much as possible, future disputes.

 

Minister Vivian: We also discussed the 1962 Water Agreement. Both sides have differing views on the right to review the price of water under this Agreement. Both of us have agreed that the Attorneys-General of Malaysia and Singapore will continue their discussions to better understand each other's position on the right to review the price of water under this agreement.

 

Minister Saifuddin: As alluded to by FM Vivian, the Attorneys-General of Malaysia and Singapore will continue to discuss the 1962 Johor River Water Agreement with a view of finding an amicable way forward. We also reaffirm our commitment to resolve bilateral issues in a constructive manner, and encourage ongoing diplomatic efforts to find amicable solutions for mutual interests. And this is of course, in preserving the vital relationship between both countries, and improving bilateral ties on the basis of equality and mutual respect. I think that is the underlying spirit of all of the discussions that we have had in the past, and we will be having in the future. Thank you.

 

Minister Vivian: Thank you.

 

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