Malaysia, Singapore vow to resolve air and sea disputes

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong shakes hands with Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad after a joint news conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia April 9, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 10 April 2019
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Malaysia, Singapore vow to resolve air and sea disputes

  • Move seen as key step in de-escalating tensions between the two countries

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia and Singapore on Tuesday vowed to work together to resolve their differences, particularly a long-running dispute over air and sea borders.
“We agree that the fundamental principle is to resolve issues of concern in a friendly and constructive manner and work toward amicable solutions,” said Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad during a joint press conference in the city of Putrajaya.

Delegations from the two Southeast Asian nations met for the ninth Leaders’ Retreat this week. The meeting was the first between the Singapore government and Malaysia’s new Pakatan Harapan government following the political coalition’s win in last year’s elections.

Referring to recent tensions between the two countries over a maritime boundary dispute that has been going on since the late 1970s, Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong said: “We have made progress to de-escalate the situation at sea and avoid further incidents.”

Dr. Ian Chong, associate professor of political science at the National University of Singapore, welcomed the positive tone of the meeting.

“We are among each other’s closest neighbors and highly interdependent. Amicability and cooperation in the relationship between Malaysia and Singapore is especially important in today’s more uncertain and complex world,” he told Arab News.

Both governments have vowed to kickstart the negotiation process to delimit their maritime borders and implement recommendations on maritime issues surrounding port limits off Tanjung Piai and Tuas. Mohamad said a new committee would be formed within a month to address the matters.

“Ultimately, Malaysia believes it is important to delimit all outstanding maritime boundaries between Malaysia and Singapore, and not only to delimit the area surrounding the port limits. It should be for the whole boundary,” he added.

A return to the 2018 limits will see both countries agreeing to temporarily suspend all commercial activities in the area and operate in accordance with international laws.

Singapore and Malaysia will also work to resolve outstanding bilateral maritime boundaries delimitation issues concerning Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge.

Both leaders pledged to resolve airspace disputes too. Malaysia has suspended its permanent Restricted Area (RA) over Pasir Gudang indefinitely, while Singapore has withdrawn the Instrument Landing System (ILS) procedures at Seletar Airport.

Loong said that resolving the airspace dispute was a complex matter that would involve consulting various stakeholders, including air traffic operations.

The island city of Singapore was established in 1965 following a bitter split from the Federation of Malaysia. Despite that, bilateral relations between Malaysia and Singapore remain strong.

Other issues discussed at the retreat included the 1962 Johor River Water Agreement and the Malaysia-Singapore railway suspension.


Afghan forces kill seven civilians in attack on militants

Updated 27 min 44 sec ago
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Afghan forces kill seven civilians in attack on militants

  • The seven civilians, including women and children, were killed in Logar province, just south of Kabul, on Sunday night
  • Afghan forces, backed by US advisers, have in recent months stepped up their air strikes and raids to the highest levels since 2014

KABUL: Afghan government forces mistakenly killed seven civilians, including children, in an attack on militants south of the capital, a provincial official said on Monday, the latest victims of a war undiminished by peace talks.
Government forces, have been facing Taliban attacks across much of the country, and have responded with air strikes aimed at killing insurgent leaders, even as US and Afghan representatives have been negotiating with the militants in Qatar.
The seven civilians, including women and children, were killed in Logar province, just south of Kabul, on Sunday night said Hasib Stanekzai, a member of Logar’s provincial council. Six people were wounded, he said.
Provincial police confirmed the attack on militants by government forces but said they were investigating the casualties.
“According to our initial information a number of militants were killed or wounded, but local people gathered in the area, claiming that a house belonging to a Kuchi family had been bombed, causing civilian casualties,” said Shahpor Ahmadzai, a spokesman for Logar police.
Kuchi are nomadic herders, but some now live in permanent settlements.
Ahmadzai, who said police were investigating, also said foreign forces were involved in the attack on the militants. Officials with Afghanistan’s NATO force were not immediately available to confirm or deny their involvement in the operation.
Afghan forces, backed by US advisers, have in recent months stepped up their air strikes and raids to the highest levels since 2014.
The latest phase of Afghanistan’s war — which began when US-backed forces the overthrew the Taliban following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States — has intensified despite the most sustained peace talks of the war.
The United Nations has repeatedly expressed concern about civilian casualties, which reached their highest level last year since detailed accounting began nearly a decade ago.
The war claimed 3,804 civilian lives in 2018, that included 927 children, both figures all-time highs, representing an 11% increase in civilian deaths compared with 2017, UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said in February.