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Singapore and Malaysia will peacefully settle their water and other pressing issues: PMs Wong and Anwar

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  • Singapore and Malaysia are committed to resolving longstanding bilateral issues, including water agreements and airspace management, through constructive dialogue.
  • Both countries are exploring new avenues for cooperation, such as the Johor-Singapore Special Economic Zone and the Rapid Transit Link.
  • The leaders emphasized the importance of trust and mutual benefit in strengthening their bilateral relationship and regional stability.

Singapore and Malaysia have reaffirmed their commitment to resolving longstanding bilateral issues, including water agreements, airspace management, and maritime borders, through amicable and constructive dialogue. This pledge was made by Singapore's Prime Minister Lawrence Wong and Malaysia's Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim during a joint press conference held at Seri Perdana, the official residence of the Malaysian Prime Minister, on June 12, 2024.

Building on Strong Foundations

Prime Minister Wong, on his first overseas trip since taking office, emphasized the importance of building a strong rapport with his Malaysian counterpart. "For me, what's important at this beginning, having just taken over, is not so much to talk about priorities in terms of projects or agenda items, but to focus on the human relationship and to build a good relationship with my counterpart Prime Minister Anwar, because trust is everything," Wong stated.

Both leaders highlighted the significance of maintaining continuity in their countries' strategic approach while exploring new avenues for cooperation. "Whatever differences we may have on these issues should not affect or colour how we treat the overall relationship, and certainly should not detract from the possibilities of pursuing new areas of cooperation," Wong added.

Addressing Complex Issues

The bilateral discussions covered a range of complex issues, including the longstanding water agreement under the 1962 Johor River Water Agreement, which allows Singapore to draw up to 250 million gallons of raw water per day from the Johor River. In return, Singapore provides Johor with treated water. The agreement, which is in effect until 2061, has been a point of contention, with Malaysia seeking to review the terms.

Airspace management, specifically the Flight Information Region (FIR), was another critical topic. Both leaders acknowledged the complexities involved but expressed optimism about making progress. "The issue is to get to the nitty-gritty and get the details resolved," Anwar noted.

Maritime boundaries also remain a sensitive issue, with both countries working to implement the International Court of Justice's 2008 ruling on Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks, and South Ledge. Anwar expressed his ambition to resolve these issues, stating, "I want this to be able to showcase to the region and the world how good neighbours should behave and interact".

Future Prospects and Cooperation

Looking ahead, both leaders are optimistic about the potential for new joint projects, such as the Johor-Singapore Special Economic Zone and the Rapid Transit Link between Woodlands and Johor. These initiatives are expected to enhance connectivity and economic integration between the two countries. "What we are doing between Singapore-Malaysia and between Johor-Singapore is also in many ways what ASEAN ought to be doing to strengthen our economic integration as one community," Wong remarked.

The leaders also discussed Malaysia's upcoming chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2025. Wong expressed Singapore's full support, emphasizing the importance of setting an ambitious and forward-looking agenda for the region. "Together, we can make this happen," he said.

The commitment of Singapore and Malaysia to resolve their outstanding issues amicably reflects a broader vision of regional stability and cooperation. By focusing on trust and mutual benefit, Prime Ministers Wong and Anwar are setting a positive example for international diplomacy and bilateral relations. As both countries continue to work through their differences, the prospects for a stronger and more integrated Southeast Asia remain promising.

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