Oct 25, 2012

Singapore - Singapore backs Indonesia's proposed code to settle maritime row

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Yogyakarta, Central Java: Singapore's Foreign Affairs and Law Minister, K Shanmugam, says he supports a proposal by Indonesia to help settle the South China Sea dispute.

The proposal is called the "Zero Draft" Code of Conduct.

He also praised Indonesia's efforts at finding a lasting solution to the territorial dispute which involves six countries, four of which are ASEAN member states.

Mr Shanmugam was speaking after meeting his Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa in Yogyakarta, Central Java on Wednesday.

Mr Shanmugam said: "It's a very useful framework structure and a lot of work and effort has gone to it and we thank Pak Marty and Indonesia for that.

"In terms of how this plays out, of course there's a number of parties involved. How we put it forward, what sort of elements we take later…those are matters to be discussed within the countries. But I think it's a good start."

Mr Natalegawa said: "We can't simply propose something and say take it or leave it. It needs to be discussed and measured so it fits accordingly. We want to trigger a momentum, but on the other hand we cannot impose an idea."

Mr Natalegawa had already explained that the Zero Draft COC states that efforts to build landmarks, emplace troops, send commercial ships or provide oil concessions will not strengthen the territorial claims of any particular country involved in the disputes.

He added that representatives of ASEAN and China will meet in Thailand next week to put forth their ideas on the Zero Draft COC.

The meeting between the two foreign ministers complements the annual meeting between the leaders of Singapore and Indonesia.

Besides ASEAN issues, discussions also included trade, investment and tourism.

Indonesia and Singapore are working on air connectivity to boost tourism, which will allow tourists holding visas to Singapore to visit the neighbouring Indonesian Riau islands such as Batam and Bintan without having to apply for an additional Indonesian visa.

Both Mr Shanmugam and Mr Natalegawa agreed that bilateral relations remain strong and robust.

Mr Shanmugam said: "It's always enjoyable to come to Indonesia and be hosted by Pak Marty; excellent hospitality, great place, and of course underlying it all is a great relationship and friendship between our two countries.

"As Pak Marty has put forward, the relationship with Indonesia is so multi-faceted, the people-to-people relationship is very strong. It's got an investment focus, it's got a trade focus, it's got a tourism focus.

"In all these, the relationship is fundamental; it is strong and very substantive. Even though, you know, you look at the rest of the world and you compare it, the relationship between Singapore and Indonesia, in economic terms, is very substantive and mutually beneficial."

He said both sides also see many things in the region along similar lines.

Mr Shanmugam also met the Vice-Governor of Yogyakarta, Paku Alam IX. They discussed developments in Yogyakarta and exchanged ideas to strengthen economic cooperation between Singapore and Yogyakarta.

Mr Shanmugam will travel to Jakarta on Thursday and call on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

- CNA/ir

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