SINGAPORE: Singapore Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said on Sunday (Jan 13) that he had “an open and candid discussion” with Malaysian Minister of Economic Affairs Mohamed Azmin Ali, who is in Singapore to discuss bilateral issues.
Mr Azmin’s visit follows Singapore’s decision on Saturday to postpone joint ministerial committee talks on Iskandar, after Johor Chief Minister Osman Sapian made an “unauthorised visit” to Malaysian vessel Pedoman, which was in Singapore waters.
“Had a good meeting of minds over dinner with Malaysian Minister of Economic Affairs Dato’ Seri Azmin Ali this evening,” said Dr Balakrishnan in a Facebook post.
“We had an open and candid discussion of the issues currently confronting us. We reaffirmed that there are far more opportunities for Malaysia and Singapore to work together, especially at this time of global economic transformation,” he added.
The meeting between the two ministers come amid an airspace and maritime dispute between Singapore and Malaysia.
Malaysian government vessels have made repeated incursions into Singapore territorial waters in recent months, after Malaysia extended the Johor Bahru port limits in October, encroaching into Singapore territorial waters off Tuas.
Singapore has protested the port limit extension and the movements of the vessels. Singapore’s Transport Ministry also extended Singapore’s port limits off Tuas on Dec 6 in response.
Last Tuesday, tensions appeared to ease as both countries’ foreign ministers met and agreed to establish a working group to study and discuss legal and operational matters relating to the maritime dispute, in order to provide a basis for further discussions and negotiations.
The next day, however, Johor Chief Minister Osman Sapian’s made an “unauthorised visit” to the Pedoman, in “a provocative act” that went against the spirit of the agreement by both countries to resolve bilateral issues in a calm and constructive manner, said Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Mr Azmin said on Sunday that it is in the interest of both Singapore and Malaysia for both countries to maintain strong ties.
“We are each other’s closest neighbour connected by deep historical ties and family bonds. Let’s work things out for the well-being and future of our people,” Mr Azmin said in a Twitter post of his meeting with Dr Balakrishnan.