Malaysia, Indonesia achieve breakthrough in territorial disputes

Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah and his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi in a joint press conference to announce the breakthrough. (Facebook pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: After 13 years of negotiations, Malaysia and Indonesia have finally achieved a breakthrough with regard to the two maritime territorial disputes in the Sulawesi Sea and the southern part of the Melaka Straits.

Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah and his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi announced the commitment in a joint media conference after the 16th Meeting of the Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) here today.

Saifuddin said the breakthrough was achieved in the 34th Technical Meeting held in Melaka, from Nov 16 to 18.

“The most important decision is that both are happy to announce the maritime boundary delimitation involving two joint technical proposals.

“They are the territorial sea boundary in Sulawesi and the continuation of the provisional territorial sea boundary in the southern part of the Straits of Melaka.

“We welcome and commend the achievement, and we hoped that the technical meeting will continue to intensify efforts and (provide) solutions to resolve the rest of the maritime boundary issues between Malaysia and Indonesia,” he said.

Saifuddin said both technical proposals would be forwarded to the respective governments for approval.

On today’s meeting, he said Indonesia would assist to solve the bureaucracy issue faced by about 4,000 Malaysian students in Jakarta in trying to obtain and renew their student visas.

On education issues, Saifuddin said at the moment, there were 85 Community Learning Centres (CLC) registered in Sabah and 16 in Sarawak which proved that Malaysia was serious in providing education for Indonesian workers.

“The spirit behind this is of course that Malaysia believes every child has the right to get basic education and no one should be left behind,” he said.

Meanwhile, Retno said that Indonesia was happy to finally make the breakthrough on the disputes for the benefit of the two neighbours in the long run.

“We have achieved agreement in two out of five Outstanding Boundaries Problems (OBPs) in the eastern sector of the North Kalimatan-Sabah region and we also agreed to expedite the finalisation of three other OBPs. Later on, we will start negotiations on other sectors of the southern part.

“We are also looking forward to further discussions on several draft MoUs including the requirement and placement of Indonesian domestic workers, human trafficking issues as well as the implementation and agreement on the conservation of Sumatran rhinoceros,” she said.

She also stressed that both countries needed to continue working together to maintain peace and stability in the region.