Kuala Lumpur– Although the Indonesian media and public and elements in the military have demanded that the government adopt a tough stand inits territorial dispute withMalaysia, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono seems determined to keep bilateral relations on an even keel.
According to Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar, the Indonesian leader had given his personal pledge to control the situation.
The warm and close ties between the two neighbours took a knock recently after Indonesia protested over the award of an oil concession in the Sulawesi Sea by Malaysian state oil company, Petronas, to energy giant Shell.
Indonesiasays the concession is in an area under its jurisdiction, called Ambalat. It has sent warships in the area to bolster its claims.Malaysiaargues that the area is within its maritime zone.
According to The Star, during a meeting with Mr Syed Hamid, the Indonesian President downplayed the hostile public and media reaction to the dispute, including the burning ofMalaysiaflags.
He was quoted as telling Mr Syed Hamid that even his own picture had been burnt before.
“I went to see the President and he told me the relationship withMalaysiawas very important not only in a personal capacity but also as neighbours,” Mr Syed Hamid said on March 12 after returning from a visit toJakarta.
“He gave the assurance that everything is under control.Indonesiawill do everything necessary to ensure the situation is calm.”
Mr Syed Hamid said Mr Yudhoyono would continue to be in touch with Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and wanted foreign ministers and armed forces chiefs of both countries to do the same.
“I see the sincerity he has shown to ease the situation. He also said that he went to the area in dispute to remind the Indonesian military patrolling the area to always be alert to avoid unwanted incidents,” Mr Syed Hamid added.
Earlier inJakarta, Mr Syed Hamid and his Indonesian counterpart, Mr Hassan Wirajuda,told a press conference that both countries would use all possible means to defuse tensions, including some "adjustments" to prevent armed conflict.
Both sides have also agreed on talks to end the territorial dispute.
"All parties will control their respective environments in a bid to ease tensions. The President will communicate with the Cabinet, and vice versa," Mr Wirajuda said.
"We'll try to put things back to the way they used to be before the tension," he added.
* Susilo pledges to ease tension (The Star, March 13)
* RI, Malaysia cool off, talks to start soon (The Jakarta Post, March 13)