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Singapore, Indonesia ink agreements on longstanding issues of airspace management, extradition and military training

BINTAN (Indonesia) — Singapore and Indonesia signed deals that address longstanding issues over airspace management, extradition and military training in the South China Sea at a leaders’ retreat between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Tuesday (Jan 25).

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) and Indonesian President Joko Widodo (right) at a leaders' retreat in Bintan, Indonesia, on Jan 25, 2022.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) and Indonesian President Joko Widodo (right) at a leaders' retreat in Bintan, Indonesia, on Jan 25, 2022.

Singapore

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  • Singapore and Indonesia have signed a "balanced set of agreements" over airspace management, defence cooperation and extradition
  • Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Indonesian President Joko Widodo witnessed the signing and exchange
  • Both were in a leaders' retreat in Bintan, Indonesia on Jan 25, their fifth so far
  • The set of agreements address longstanding issues between the two countries, including the alignment of an air traffic boundary

BINTAN (Indonesia) — Singapore and Indonesia signed deals that address longstanding issues over airspace management, extradition and military training in the South China Sea at a leaders’ retreat between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Tuesday (Jan 25).

Both countries agreed to realign the boundary of the flight information regions (FIRs) controlled by Singapore and Jakarta, to bring into force a 2007 defence cooperation agreement that had been put on hold previously, and to put in place an extradition treaty between the two nations.

​​These bilateral agreements form a “balanced set of agreements” that were negotiated under a framework that allowed both sides to discuss the issues separately and concurrently, Mr Lee said. 

He and Mr Joko had agreed to continue discussions on the basis of this framework in October 2019, during their previous leaders’ retreat in Singapore.

Tuesday’s retreat at the Sanchaya resort in Bintan, Indonesia, is the fifth one between Mr Lee and Mr Joko, and the first since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

Speaking at a joint press conference, Mr Lee said that the conclusion of these agreements demonstrates the strength and maturity of Singapore-Indonesia relations.

"These three agreements take into account both parties’ interests, represent a good balance of benefits, are durable agreements for the long haul that will last for at least a generation, and create a solid foundation to move bilateral relations forward with confidence."

Both countries exchanged a set of letters to agree that the three agreements will be entered into force simultaneously. "What remains will be for both countries to complete our domestic processes to bring the set of agreements into force," Mr Lee added.

Mr Joko said that the realignment of the FIR would allow Indonesia to cover all of its airspace, in particular, the airspace around its Natuna and Riau islands.

"The cooperation in law enforcement, aviation safety as well as defence and security of the two countries will continue to be strengthened based on the principles of mutual benefit," he added.

FLIGHT INFORMATION REGION

Under the FIR agreement, both countries will realign the boundary between the Jakarta FIR and the Singapore FIR for a period of 25 years.

This can be extended by mutual consent if both parties find it beneficial to do so, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said in a statement.

FIRs are aerial boundaries that demarcate airspace management responsibilities for civil aviation authorities so that aircraft may navigate safely and efficiently. 

The present Singapore FIR, which was assigned by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in 1946, includes airspace over parts of the South China Sea as well as Indonesia’s Riau Islands such as Batam, Bintan and the Natuna islands.

The deal will see Indonesia delegating air navigation services of portions of the airspace within the realigned Jakarta FIR to Singapore.

Both countries have also worked out arrangements for civil-military cooperation in air traffic management, including having Indonesian personnel at the Singapore Air Traffic Control Centre to coordinate with Singapore air traffic controllers for Indonesian state-owned aircraft flying in Indonesian airspace where air navigation services are provided by Singapore.

With the agreement, Singapore and Indonesia will jointly consult relevant stakeholders and submit an amendment proposal to the ICAO. MFA said that the agreement takes into account the international aviation body's rules and regulations.

Both countries will also consult with each other and ICAO before the agreement lapses 25 years later, with a view to ensure that international civil aviation in the region continues to operate safely and efficiently.

Speaking to reporters at the end of the retreat, Mr Lee said that the FIR deal is a long-term one and realigns the boundaries to be "generally in accordance with Indonesia's territorial boundaries".

"(The agreement) makes sure that Changi Airport is able to operate efficiently, safely and fully, and provide air traffic control services in order to function as an important international airport and to be able to grow in the long term.

"So it is a carefully negotiated and balanced set of agreements, and I think for both sides, important interests and concerns have been met," Mr Lee said in response to a question from TODAY. 

DEFENCE COOPERATION

Singapore and Indonesia have also agreed to enter into force the 2007 Defence Cooperation Agreement, as well as an Implementing Agreement between the armed forces of the two countries for military training areas, as part of the set of bilateral agreements signed on Tuesday.

The defence agreement will strengthen the strategic relationship between both country’s defence establishments through enhanced cooperation and closer interaction between both militaries. 

As part of the deal, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will continue to conduct military training and exercises in training areas in Indonesia “with full respect” for Indonesia’s territorial sovereignty, including its archipelagic and territorial waters and airspace, and in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), MFA said.

Singapore and Indonesia are both members of Unclos, and military training in the South China Sea is governed by Article 51 of the convention.

The agreements were previously signed in 2007 along with an extradition treaty, but had not been ratified by the Indonesian parliament.

With both nations reaching an agreement on Tuesday, the defence agreement will remain in force for 25 years.

EXTRADITION

Singapore and Indonesia also concluded agreements on a treaty for the extradition of fugitives, which allows both countries to grant extradition for a comprehensive list of offences.

This is provided the extradition is in accordance with the laws of both countries, and is subject to the requisite safeguards and provisions stated in the treaty. The extradition treaty does not have an expiry date.

Singapore now has extradition arrangements with many countries, including Brunei, Malaysia and the United Kingdom.

FINANCE, ENERGY AND HUMAN CAPITAL COOPERATION

Apart from the set of agreements, Mr Lee and Mr Joko also endorsed several memorandums of understanding (MOUs) signed ahead of the retreat.

These include:

  • MOU on Financial and Economic Cooperation, which covers emerging areas of collaboration in financial services, climate finance and the digital economy
  • MOU on Bilateral Partnership on Green and Circular Economy Development, potentially paving the way for collaborations on recycling and waste management
  • MOU on Energy Cooperation, allowing officials from Singapore and Indonesia to work together on cross-border electricity trading, hydrogen and carbon capture and other energy-related initiatives
  • MOU on Central Banking, Financial Regulation and Innovation, to promote collaboration on projects involving payment innovation and to formalise cooperation across central bank and regulatory functions

The education ministries of both countries had also signed a Human Capital Partnership Arrangement on Jan 24 to open up new areas of educational cooperation. 

Besides capability development and other features, the arrangement will also establish a reciprocal youth mobility agreement to allow university students to take up longer internships of up to six months in Indonesia, and vice versa.

Related topics

military training airspace extradition Indonesia Joko Widodo Politics Bintan

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