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Malaysia and Singapore agreed to immediately and simultaneously back down on airspace issue to make way for negotiations

Malaysia has agreed to simultaneously and immediately suspend permanent restricted area over Pasir Gudang while Singapore agreed to suspend implementation of the instrument landing system (ILS) for Seletar Airport.

In a joint press statement, Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said that following a ‘very positive, very constructive, and very necessary’ meeting today with his Malaysian counterpart Saifuddin Abdullah, both countries have agreed to stand down their positions to make way for a more conducive negotiation process. The suspension will be carried out for a month in the first instance.

Mr Balakrishnan added that transport ministers of both countries will meet soon to conduct discussions on these issues in order to “ensure the safety and efficiency of civil aviation in our part of the world”.

This is a much calmer response from Singapore compared to the earlier posturing from Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan who asserted that Malaysia’s claims over how the implementation of ILS for Seletar Airport would be inconvenient to Malaysia was inaccurate and that Malaysia was simply citing technicalities to push for a change in management of the Pasir Gudang airspace.

Delivering the second part of the joint statement, Mr Saifuddin touched on the maritime dispute. Both countries have agreed to establish a working group comprised of ‘senior officials’ led by Singapore’s Permanent Secretary of Foreign Affairs Mr Chee Wee Kiong and Malaysian Secretary General of Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dato’ Sri Muhammad Shahrul Ikram.

Mr Saifuddin elaborated that the “this working group is to discuss the legal and operational issues to de-escalate the situation on the ground and provide a basis for further negotiations.” He added that the working group will report back to the foreign ministers in two months.

Both ministers emphasised the importance of de-escalating the situation on the ground and creating a conducive atmosphere for productive negotiations. They also noted the historical and important bilateral ties between Singapore and Malaysia and reiterated their commitment in strengthening this vital relationship.

You can watch the joint press conference here: