Ties with Singapore 'a boost for Jakarta'

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said deepening economic cooperation between Indonesia and Singapore has contributed to his country's economic growth and had an effect on the improved well-being of the Indonesian people over the years.

"This has a direct impact on the strength of Indonesia-Singapore cooperation," he told Indonesian media accompanying him yesterday.

Dr Yudhoyono said such ties were possible because the political relationship was stable and well managed, and he was confident his successor Joko Widodo would be committed to preserving and growing these ties after taking office on Oct 20.

Having a similar mindset had also enabled both countries to play a positive role in ensuring that their neighbourhood was stable, peaceful and prospering economically, Dr Yudhoyono added.

His remarks at the end of his three-day state visit yesterday appear aimed at a domestic audience, and signal his strong commitment to deepening bilateral ties, which he described as "strong and special" in a speech at the Istana on Wednesday night.

In his round-up yesterday, Dr Yudhoyono said he had good meetings with President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. They took stock of what both countries had achieved over the past 10 years, and what more could be done to strengthen the partnership.

Mr Lee expressed his appreciation for Dr Yudhoyono's strong support for the Singapore-Indonesia relationship, and said Singapore looked forward to further enhancing its strong ties with Indonesia, Singapore's Foreign Ministry said.

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong also called on the Indonesian leader yesterday morning.

Mr Goh congratulated him on being awarded the Order of Temasek (First Class) on Wednesday.

PM Lee and Mrs Lee later saw Dr Yudhoyono and his wife, Mrs Ani Yudhoyono, off at the airport.

In his remarks to the media, Dr Yudhoyono underscored his country's continuing commitment to settling maritime boundaries with its neighbours through negotiations.

On Wednesday, the foreign ministers of Indonesia and Singapore signed a treaty demarcating their maritime boundary along the eastern stretch of the Singapore Strait. Dr Yudhoyono said a remaining section - between Pedra Branca and Bintan - involved Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore sitting down to delimit waters.

"It will be more complicated," he said.

"But let's not have the potential for cooperation be locked in. That has to be the spirit and outlook."

He noted that Indonesia also reached a landmark accord with the Philippines in May to set maritime boundary lines where their exclusive economic zones overlap in the Mindanao and Celebes seas. It also reached agreement on 97 per cent of its land border with Timor Leste in ongoing talks.

Dr Yudhoyono hoped these agreements could set an example for other countries facing disputes.

"Let me underline that the more border settlements we reach, the likelihood of conflict will be far reduced, or even diminished," he said.

"Disputes between the Philippines and China, and Vietnam and China, can also be resolved in a peaceful manner, without fighting, and by reference to international law."

Mr Ristian Atriandi Supriyanto of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies said resolving disputes involving multiple claimants in the South China Sea would be more difficult.

But he told The Straits Times: "What is important here is the spirit of negotiations, good neighbourliness and non-assertiveness that Indonesia took during negotiations to resolve these disputes."


This article was published on Sept 5 in The Straits Times.

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