Sunday, May 18, 2008

'Ambalat dispute will not go to ICJ'

SEREMBAN: Malaysia and Indonesia will not refer their dispute over the Ambalat (petroleum exploration) block in the Sulawesi Sea near Borneo to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim said the decision was made after recent discussions with his Indonesian counterpart, Hassan Wirajuda.

"We have agreed to propose to both governments that the issue of Ambalat be settled according to the law relating to territorial waters and economic rights of both countries," Rais said yesterday.

Rais said opinions and suggestions from a panel of experts on the issue will be respected by both parties.

"We also agreed to set up an independent and neutral advisory group to present a second opinion on the matter."

The dispute over the Ambalat block surfaced last year after the national oil companies of both countries awarded oil and gas concessions in waters off the Sabah and East Kalimantan coasts that overlapped one another.

Italian firm Eni operates the Ambalat block under a production-sharing contract with the Indonesian government that was signed in 1999.

In March 2005, Indonesia sent warships and fighter jets to the area after Malaysia struck an exploration deal with Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Petronas.

On the coming ICJ judgment on Pulau Batu Puteh, Rais said Malaysia and Singapore had agreed that regardless of outcome, bilateral relations will not be affected - NST

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