Pacts on bilateral issues a major step forward for Singapore-Indonesia ties: Lee


Lee Hsien Loong and Indonesian President Joko Widodo at The Sanchaya in Bintan for the Singapore-Indonesia Leaders' Retreat. - MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

BINTAN (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): Singapore and Indonesia have concluded a set of agreements on three longstanding bilateral issues, including on aviation needs and safety, as they realign the boundary between their respective flight information regions (FIRs).

Under the FIR agreement, the boundary between the Singapore FIR and Jakarta FIR is realigned to be generally in accordance with Indonesia’s territorial boundaries.

As part of the pact, Indonesia will delegate the provision of air navigation services in portions of the realigned Jakarta FIR to Singapore for 25 years, which can be extended by mutual consent.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said this ensures Changi Airport is able to operate efficiently, safely and provide air traffic control services in order to function as an important international airport, and to be able to grow in the long term as one.

“It is a carefully negotiated and balanced set of agreements and I think both sides’ important interests and concerns have been met,” he told Singapore reporters.

PM Lee and Indonesian President Joko Widodo witnessed the signing of the agreements during their fifth Leaders' Retreat in Bintan on Tuesday (Jan 25). They also presided over an exchange of letters undertaking to bring the agreements into force simultaneously.

The other two agreements are an extradition treaty, and an agreement on defence cooperation and military training.

At their meeting, the two leaders affirmed the excellent relations between Singapore and Indonesia. They also agreed that significant progress has been made on bilateral cooperation in areas of mutual benefit to both countries, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said in a statement following the conclusion of the meetings.

PM Lee said the three agreements that were signed deal with bilateral issues that go back many years, even decades, and “have been significant items on the agenda which we have discussed for quite a long time”.

He noted that in 2007, Singapore and Indonesia reached agreement on two of them - the Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) and the extradition treaty - but after that, the agreements were not able to be ratified.

The two sides have committed to them again, with some minor adjustments to the extradition treaty, and will seek to have them ratified, he told reporters.

The agreements address issues that are important to both countries and can cause lots of trouble if they are not properly resolved, he said.

“But if they are settled properly, and we have a clear understanding on them, then you can go forward and do a lot more cooperation across the board.”

At a joint press conference after the signings, PM Lee said the conclusion of the agreements demonstrates the strength and maturity of the two neighbours’ relationship.

"These agreements take into account both parties' interests, represent a good balance of benefits, are durable agreements for the long haul designed to last for at least a generation, and create a solid foundation to move bilateral relations forward with confidence and trust."

Speaking before Lee, Widodo said: "Going forward, we hope that the cooperation in law enforcement, aviation safety as well as defence and security of the two countries will continue to be strengthened based on the principle of mutual benefit."

Lee noted that the FIR agreement meets the civil aviation needs of both countries. The deal will have to be approved by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

The second agreement inked on Tuesday provides for the extradition of fugitives for a comprehensive list of extraditable offences, in accordance with the laws of both countries and subject to safeguards and provisions.

The treaty adds to Singapore's extradition arrangements with countries such as the United Kingdom, and with Malaysia and Brunei to mutually recognise and execute arrest warrants against fugitives.

Lee said: "The extradition treaty will enhance cooperation in combating crime and send a clear positive signal to investors."

Lee and Widodo also witnessed the signing of a joint statement on the 2007 DCA and Military Training Area Implementing Arrangement (IA-MTA) between Singapore and Indonesia.

"The DCA will strengthen cooperation between our armed forces and advance our defence relations," said Lee.

The agreement will promote closer interaction between the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and Indonesian National Defence Forces, and will be in force for 25 years.

Under it, the SAF will continue to conduct military training and exercises in Indonesia, with full respect for Indonesia’s sovereignty over its territory.

Lee also accepted Widodo’s invitation to the G-20 summit in Bali later this year and expressed Singapore’s support for Indonesia’s G-20 presidency.

The two leaders also endorsed several memorandums of understanding signed ahead of the retreat, including on green and circular economy development that covers collaboration on recycling and expertise sharing on waste management, among other things.

The two sides also agreed to work towards making the new travel bubble for visitors to Bintan and Batam reciprocal, and to continue discussions to expand air and sea travel more generally to more parts of Indonesia.

Lee said he was grateful to President Widodo for hosting a successful and fruitful retreat, and credited his leadership and vision for the positive outcome to negotiations over the longstanding bilateral issues.

For the three agreements to take effect, both countries will need to complete their domestic ratification processes.

Lee said: "I encourage the ministers and officials to maintain close cooperation and coordination and implement the agreements expeditiously."

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