Istanbul bomb attack 'tragic but won't be the last'

The suicide bomb attack in the Turkish city of Istanbul on Tuesday is another "tragic, unnecessary loss of life", but it is unlikely to be the last such incident, said Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.

That is why the ongoing collaboration between Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia to counter the threat of terrorism in the region must continue, he added.

"The governments at the highest levels are fully committed to continuing this effort," said Dr Balakrishnan. Such effort includes countering terrorism, fundamentalism and extremism, and dealing with the flows of young people, both those going from the region to the Middle East and those returning.

Ten people, mostly German nationals, were killed and 15 others injured after a militant from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) blew himself up in Istanbul's busiest tourist district on Tuesday. Turkey's Interior Minister Efkan Ala yesterday said one person has been detained over the attack.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Dr Balakrishnan have written to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, its PM Ahmet Davutoglu and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, respectively, to condemn the attack.

PM Lee and Dr Balakrishnan also wrote to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and its Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier to convey their condolences for the victims, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

"Our condolences and our thoughts are with the families," said Dr Balakrishnan. "But unfortunately, it is not likely to be the last such incident. And it just shows why we need to pay attention to this, share information, work collectively and effectively across boundaries, because it's a transnational problem (and) a clear and imminent threat to peace and security all over the world."

The minister was speaking to the Singapore media in Jakarta yesterday at the end of his two-day inaugural visit to Indonesia as Singa-pore's top envoy. He had earlier in the morning called on President Joko Widodo at the presidential palace. He also met his Indonesian counterpart, Ms Retno Marsudi, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan and others on Tuesday.

"I would say our relationship with Indonesia is long, deep and multi-faceted and it's a healthy relationship," he told reporters. "Singapore and Indonesia can collaborate in expanding the scope for investments (and) this builds again on a very good pre-existing track record."

On the subject of the transboundary haze crisis, Dr Balakrishnan said Singapore is keen to resume a bilateral project in Indonesia's Jambi province. The initiative had included ways to detect hot spots on a local level, sustainable agriculture and how to deal with and manage hot spots when they arise.

He also said that Mr Joko and Mr Luhut have given him their assurances that they are serious about preventing a repeat of last year's crisis. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also working towards PM Lee meeting Mr Joko for their first Leaders' Retreat, "perhaps in the middle of this year", said Dr Balakrishnan. The meeting between the two leaders is set to be held in Indonesia.

This article was first published on Jan 14, 2016.
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