PUTRAJAYA - The water agreement is a "fundamental founding document" for Singapore and Malaysia and both countries have to abide by it, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Tuesday (April 9).
"It's a basic term on which the two countries decided to manage our relationships," he said. "If you look at it from that point of view, to be able to change it is a very high hurdle."
Speaking at a joint press conference with his Malaysian counterpart Mahathir Mohamad at Perdana Putra after their Leaders' Retreat, Mr Lee said he understands the political necessity for Malaysia to press for a revision of the price of water under the 1962 Water Agreement.
"I hope that he'll be able to see Singapore's perspective - why this is such a sacrosanct item," Mr Lee said. "Let us try to find a way forward which enables us to talk constructively about this issue, and hopefully be able to make some progress."
He added that one of the issues to be discussed is the security of Singapore's water supply from Johor, given concerns over pollution in the Johor River and its long-term yield.
PM Lee was responding to a question on whether Singapore believes that Malaysia's desire to review the price of water under the 1962 Water Agreement is reasonable.
In a joint statement, both prime ministers noted both sides' interest to identify "appropriate and timely measures" to increase the yield of the Johor River and safeguard its environmental conditions and water quality, to the extent required by the 1962 agreement.
Both leaders noted their differing positions on the right to review the price of water under the agreement, and have agreed for their countries' attorneys-general to discuss this issue.
"Both sides will seek amicable solutions, including the possibility of dispute resolution through arbitration on a mutually agreed basis," they said.
Read the joint statement below by both leaders.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.