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Tuesday March 17, 2009

Brunei drops claim over Limbang district, says Abdullah

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN: Brunei has officially dropped its long-standing claim over Sarawak’s Limbang district after the two countries resolved various land and maritime territory disputes.

“Brunei has decided to drop the Limbang issue and as a result, Limbang is part of Malaysian territory,” Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced to Malaysian media.

The resolution of the disputes were sealed via the signing of the Letters of Exchange by Abdullah and the Sultan of Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah at Istana Nurul Iman here yesterday.

A new era: Abdullah (second from left) and Sultan Hassanal exchanging the Letters of Exchange that mark the end of the territorial dispute. Looking on is Dr Rais (left) and Brunei Foreign Minister Pengiran Muda Mohamed Bolkiah. — Bernama

The other disputes include over where the maritime boundary between the two countries in the South China Sea should run, the rights to exploit potentially rich oil deposits in the disputed maritime territory, the right of movement by Malaysian vessels over Brunei waters and the demarcation of the common boundary of the two countries.

The dispute over Limbang can be traced back to the cession of the territory by Brunei to Sarawak’s White Rajahs in 1890. The cession had been strongly disputed by the Sultanate which regarded the transfer as annexation by Sara-wak.

Yesterday, Abdullah thanked the Sultan for the resolution of the various disputes, especially that of Limbang.

He said bilateral relations between the two countries would now enter a new era.

Abdullah and the Sultan said in a joint statement that they had reached agreement over the maritime boundaries between the two countries in the South China Sea.

They also agreed to establish a “commercial arrangement area” where oil and gas revenue in the disputed area would be shared between the two nations. How much each country would get was not disclosed.

The two sides also agreed to the existence of “unsuspendable rights of maritime access” which guaranteed the right of movement by Malaysian vessels through Brunei territorial waters provided Brunei’s laws and regulations are obser-ved.

Lastly, the Letters of Exchange also established the methods to demarcate the land boundary between the two countries.

The negotiations over the agreements, which began in 1995, took 39 rounds of talks to reach the resolution.

The dispute over maritime territory arose out of a 1979 map published by Malaysia which indicated that all deep-sea territorial waters off the coast of Brunei belonged to Malaysia.

The latest dispute over maritime territory occurred in 2003 when Malaysia and Brunei awarded petroleum production-sharing contracts for four exploration blocks to different companies in the disputed area, close to where a 440 million-barrel discovery had been made the year before.

Following the dispute, both countries agreed to stop drilling activities in the area.

Related story:
Win-win situation for Brunei and Malaysia

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