PETALING JAYA: The Foreign Ministry has denied that its minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah gave Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Osman Sapian his "unofficial blessing" to visit the Johor Baru port in Malaysia's territorial waters.
The Ministry said that upon learning of the planned visit from a Malaysian enforcement agency on the morning of Jan 9, ministry officials, under the advice of Saifuddin, had immediately and repeatedly contacted Osman's office and conveyed a message not to proceed with the visit.
"The Ministry was concerned that such a visit would be counter-productive after the positive and constructive outcome of the bilateral meetings between the Foreign Minister and the Foreign Minister of Singapore just the day before.
"On Jan 8, both Ministers agreed to establish a working group that will study and discuss the legal and operational matters in order to de-escalate the situation on the ground, and to provide a basis for further discussions and negotiations," it said in a statement on Friday (Jan 18).
The ministry added that when Osman was contacted, he was already onboard a vessel and heading towards the Johor Baru port.
As a result, the ministry said that it received a Diplomatic Note from Singapore dated Jan 11 protesting Osman's actions, and consequently postponed the 14th meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia (JMCIM), originally scheduled for Monday (Jan 14).
The Star reported that Singapore wanted the meeting postponed because it claimed that Osman had trespassed into Singapore waters on Jan 9 during a visit to Johor Baru port.
Osman has since insisted that he did not trespass into Singapore waters and that all he did was watch Malaysian security teams do their job.
"Regardless of these recent developments, the ministry wishes to concentrate its efforts on the working group and looks forward to hosting the first meeting at the end of this month, a testament of its commitment to strengthen bilateral relations with Singapore based on equality and mutual respect," said the statement.
Osman's boat ride came days after both countries agreed to measures to find mutual agreeable solutions and to de-escalate tensions over bilateral disputes.
On Jan 8, Malaysia and Singapore agreed for both sides to immediately and simultaneously suspend Malaysia's permanent restricted area over Pasir Gudang and Singapore's implementation of the Instrument Landing System (ILS) procedure for Seletar Airport.
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