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KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia and Singapore agree they have a common interest to ensure the safety of navigation in the Straits of Johor and in protecting the environment.
In a joint press statement released yesterday, the two countries said they had discussed Singapore's land reclamation and the positive outcome reflected the goodwill and co-operation between them.
The two governments had discussed the issue at meetings from Jan 7 to Jan 9 and on Dec 22 and Dec 23 last year.
“This augurs well for the further strengthening of good relations between two friendly and close neighbours,” they said in the statement.
The statement described the discussions as very friendly and productive, adding that very good progress had been made.
They also agreed that the Straits of Johor constituted a shared water body.
Both governments recognised that they had a common interest in co-operating to protect the environment, including monitoring the water quality to protect the marine and estuarine environment.
The co-operation would also entail monitoring the ecology and morphology in the strait and to address any adverse impacts, if necessary.
In this regard, both governments agreed that the monitoring and exchange of information in the areas would be done through the Maritime and Port Authority-Johor Port Authority (MPA-JPA) Operational Meeting and the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Environment Committee on En-vironment (MSJCE).
These meetings follow the judgement of the Hamburg-based Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (Itlos) in Oct 2003 that directed Singapore not to carry out its reclamation in ways that would cause irreparable prejudice to Malaysia's rights or cause serious harm to the marine environment.
The tribunal had ordered Singapore to subject its reclamation works to a group of independent experts (GOE) that would study the effects and propose appropriate measures to deal with any adverse impact.
It also asked that the two countries co-operate in setting up this group of experts and agree on terms of reference of the study by early January.
The joint statement said the GOE had made a presentation to the two governments on Dec 22 last year, which marked the formal completion of its work.
Both Malaysia and Singapore accepted the recommendations of the GOE to use as the basis of a mutually acceptable and beneficial solution.
The statement said that both governments had appeared before the Tribunal in The Hague on Monday to give a briefing of the consultations.
Both sides would submit the draft settlement agreement to their respective governments for approval.
In a separate statement, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said Singapore had given its assurance that the reclamation would not affect the passage of ships to Malaysian ports and other maritime facilities.
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