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Singapore, Malaysia take steps to defuse tension at ports

Friday, 15 March 2019 | 16:00

Neighbours Singapore and Malaysia took steps toward resolving a dispute over port limits, even as tensions remain over water supply.

The countries agreed on guidelines to prevent more friction, including reverting to earlier territorial borders and refraining from commercial activities or anchoring government vessels in the area, the foreign ministers said in a joint statement in Kuala Lumpur.

“These measures were vital to de-escalate the situation on the ground,” they said in the statement.

A deal on the port limits may let them focus on addressing the worsening feud over a decades-old deal for Malaysia to supply raw water to Singapore at 3 sen (1 cent) per 1,000 gallons, a price that’s stayed unchanged since a 1962 accord. Singapore said on Wednesday that its neighbour has lost the right to review the water agreement, a day after Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah questioned the kind of English that Singapore used to arrive at the “nonsensical” interpretation of the deal, which is valid through 2061.

Saifuddin referred to a clause in the accord that said the deal is subject to review 25 years after it started, while Singapore maintained that Malaysia missed out on the chance in 1986 and 1987. The countries still have differing views on the matter, after the ministers met on Thursday.

As for the port limits, the countries will set up a committee to make sure both sides follow the guidelines within a month, and start talks to reach eventual agreement on the maritime boundaries another month later. If no deal can be reached by then, they may agree to seek an international third-party dispute settlement.
Source: Bloomberg

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