Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and her Singaporean counterpart, Vivian Balakrishnan, pose for a photo ahead of their meeting at the offices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Central Jakarta on Tuesday. (Antara Photo/Wahyu Putro A)

Indonesia, Singapore Discuss Control of Airspace Above Riau Islands

BY : NUR YASMIN

JULY 16, 2019

Jakarta. Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and her Singaporean counterpart, Vivian Balakrishnan, met at her ministry's offices in Central Jakarta on Tuesday to discuss Indonesia's plan to take control of its airspace above the Riau Islands from the city-state.

"We spoke about the flight information region, which we also discussed with Malaysia in January. Now, we talked about technical matters. We have made progress, but we will keep talking about this. I cannot discuss the progress yet," Retno said.

Administration of flight information regions is determined by international agreement through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Singapore has been administering the airspace above the Natuna Sea – part of Indonesia since 1946 – due to its more advanced technology and because the archipelago was under Dutch occupation at the time, despite having declared its independence on Aug. 17, 1945.

"This is not a simple matter; it has been on hold for a long time, but now we have made significant progress," Retno said, emphasizing that the flight information region was not a matter of sovereignty, but one of aviation safety.

Discussions between Indonesia and Singapore on the flight information region was on hold between 2009 and 2015.

Indonesia resumed discussions on the matter with Malaysia and Singapore in 2015 after President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo issued an order to take control of the airspace by 2019, or 2024 at the latest.

The presidential regulation was issued under the 2009 Law on Aviation, which requires Indonesia to have complete control over its airspace within a maximum of 15 years after the date of promulgation.

"Malaysia has stated that it has no objection, so now we are conducting a serious discussion with Singapore on the matter," Retno said.

Meanwhile, the two ministers also discussed the upcoming Association of Southeast Asian Nations leaders' retreat and the situation in Myanmar's Rakhine State.

"We spoke about the agenda for this year's leaders' retreat, which Singapore will be hosting. The date is still under discussion. We discussed progress made last year and deliverables for the next meeting," Retno said. Indonesia hosted the previous meeting in Bali in October.

On Rakhine State, Retno said Indonesia emphasized that the repatriation of Rohingya refugees must start as soon as possible, in a voluntary, safe and dignified manner.

"Safety is important, because so far, the situation in Rakhine State has not improved. We are still communicating with Myanmar to ensure the refugees' safety, or repatriation cannot begin," she said.

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