KUALA LUMPUR,. Singapore Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said that he had an “an open and candid discussion” with Malaysian Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali on current issues.
Channel NewsAsia reported that Dr Balakrishnan posted on Facebook that he had dinner with Azmin, who is in Singapore for a two-day visit to discuss bilateral issues, and said they talked about “current issues”.
“Had a good meeting of minds over dinner with Malaysian Minister of Economic Affairs Dato’ Seri Azmin Ali this evening,” he posted, along with a photo of himself and Azmin chatting while on a stroll along the Singapore River.
“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.”
Azmin’s visit comes in the wake of Singapore’s decision on Saturday to postpone joint ministerial committee talks on Iskandar after Johor Chief Minister Datuk Osman Sapian made an “unauthorised visit” to Malaysian vessel MV Pedoman, which Singapore claimed was in Singapore waters.
Azmin began a two-day visit yesterday that was also set to include meetings with Singapore’s National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.
The visit takes place amid an airspace and maritime dispute between Singapore and Malaysia, where Singapore is claiming Malaysian government vessels have repeatedly trespassed into Singapore waters in recent months, after Malaysia extended the Johor Baru port limits in October, encroaching into the disputed 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 December 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.
However, the next day, tensions rose again with Osman’s visit to MV Pedoman, and Singapore sent a protest note to the Malaysian government on Friday, saying that the alleged intrusion created an atmosphere “unconducive” for holding the meeting, which led to a decision to postpone the meeting.
It did, however, say it was looking forward to Azmin’s initiative to visit Singapore to work out bilateral ties.
Azmin, meanwhile, posted on Twitter that he was in a “productive meeting” with Dr Balakrishnan, to resolve bilateral issues.
“Maintaining strong ties between Singapore and Malaysia is in the best interests of both.
“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,” said Azmin.