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Dispute with S'pore must be resolved at negotiating table - Muhyiddin

Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said today he hopes that Singapore’s dispute with Malaysia over maritime boundary and airspace can be discussed at the negotiating table.

This is necessary and vital to prevent any unnecessary rivalry between the two countries, he said to reporters after opening the Johor convention of Bersatu in Kulai.

“I followed what the Minister of Singapore mentioned a few days ago that they (Singapore) would like to resolve this amicably; so that is a good move. 

"We do not want to spark an unnecessary rivalry that creates a lot of dissatisfaction,” he said.

Muhyiddin was asked to comment on the recent developments in Singapore and Malaysia over a dispute over their maritime boundary and airspace.

He said these issues were discussed seriously by the cabinet recently. 

Muhyiddin said he believes that the minister concerned will do his best to resolve the issues, as per the decision of the cabinet.

“Singapore-Malaysia relations have been good.

"It is quite normal (to have problems). Even when I was the menteri besar (of Johor), we had problems (too) but the fact is that both countries want to work together,” he said.

Risk of escalation

In Singapore, the republic’s Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing, in his first comment on the dispute, said that with the possibility of accidents taking place, the “risk of escalation cannot be underestimated”.

“The ground situation is tense. The ships are in close proximity with one another and we know that some ships are armed, so the risk of escalation cannot be underestimated. Accidents might happen,” Channel NewsAsia quoted him as saying.

“We urge all parties to revert to the pre-Oct 25 status quo ante for things to calm down. And there are ways to do this under international law without prejudice to Malaysia,” Chan was quoted as saying.

Chan reportedly said Singapore welcomes talks to find a “swift and amicable resolution” to the issue.

He was also quoted as saying that in the event of a failure to reach an agreement, Singapore is open to seeking recourse through an "appropriate international third-party dispute-settlement procedure".

The minister also called for the calming down of the ground situation first.

Singapore had on Friday turned down Malaysia’s proposal for both countries to cease and desist from sending assets into the disputed area.

However, Singapore said, it "remains ready to discuss this issue with Malaysia in a constructive manner in the spirit of preserving our important bilateral relationship”.

- Bernama