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Singapore prepared to resolve maritime dispute via “appropriate international third-party dispute settlement procedure” should negotiations fail with Malaysia: MFA

Singapore is prepared to work with other signatories of the United Nations’ Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to decide on the appropriate course of action regarding its ongoing maritime dispute with Malaysia.

In its press release on Thursday (13 Dec), Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that while “Singapore believes that maritime boundary delimitation disputes are best resolved through negotiations”, it is “prepared to settle such a dispute by recourse to an appropriate international third party dispute settlement procedure, on terms mutually agreed to by the parties.”

Consequently, Singapore has filed a declaration under Article 298(1)(a) of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on Wednesday (12 Dec).

The declaration, said the Ministry, was filed to prevent any one party -be it Singapore or “other States Parties” that are also signatories to the UNCLOS – from unilaterally resorting to arbitration or adjudication over such maritime disputes.

“Many States Parties to UNCLOS such as France, Canada, Italy, Spain, Australia and Thailand have made similar declarations,” added MFA.

The Ministry also declared that “Singapore has informed Malaysia that Singapore has filed this declaration”.

Reiterating its statement on 10 Dec, MFA also said that “representatives of Singapore and Malaysia will be meeting in the second week of January 2019 to discuss and exchange views on the Johor Bahru port limits issue.”

“Singapore hopes that by engaging each other, the two governments will reach a swift and amicable resolution, in accordance with international law,” said MFA, adding that the Republic “will continue to uphold international law and remains committed to the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law”.

The ongoing maritime dispute is not the first instance in which Singapore and Malaysia have taken into consideration third-party dispute resolution at the international level.

Fifteen years ago in 2003, both nations signed a bilateral agreement to have the question of sovereignty over Pedra Branca – or Pulau Batu Puteh as it was called on the Malaysian side – be decided at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Five years later, ICJ ruled that Singapore has sovereignty over Pedra Branca.