Singapore pours cold water on water talks

Minister of Foreign Affairs Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said that negotiations on the review of the price of raw water that Malaysia sells to Singapore started last month. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Minister of Foreign Affairs Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said that negotiations on the review of the price of raw water that Malaysia sells to Singapore started last month. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 19 — Discussions between Singapore and Malaysia to review their water agreement have been “overshadowed” by issues of territorial waters and airspace, the Singaporean government said today.

Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs acknowledged that Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad agreed in a meeting last November 12 for government officials to have further discussions on the right to review the price of water under the 1962 Water Agreement.

“The Attorneys-General of both countries subsequently met in December 2018, but their discussions were overshadowed by the new issues that had arisen over the Johor Baru Port Limits and the Seletar Instrument Landing System (ILS) procedures,” Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

The Singaporean ministry was responding to Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, who was quoted by Bernama as saying today that negotiations on the review of the price of raw water that Malaysia sells to Singapore started last month.

“This (succeeding in starting the negotiations) we deem as important because before, we could not sit at a table on the issue,” Saifuddin was quoted saying.

Singapore has disputed Johor Baru’s new port limits and expanded its own port limits to overlap that of the Johor capital.

Both nations have also argued over Singapore’s proposed instrument landing system (ILS) for the republic’s Seletar Airport that will affect the airspace over southern Johor.