Kuala Lumpur– WhileMalaysiaandIndonesiahave shown no signs of backing down from their latest territorial spat, both sides say they are relying on diplomacy to resolve the issue.Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi saidthat the two countries had agreed to hold discussions over the award of an oil concession in theSulawesiSeaby Malaysian state oil company, Petronas.
Indonesiahas protested over the concession given to energy giant Shell since it is an area which the Indonesians claim to be their own, called Ambalat.Malaysiasays the area is within its maritime zone.
Mr Abdullah said on Feb 7: “To prevent any undesirable incidents which may create tension in the relationship between Indonesia and Malaysia, both of us agreed for the matter to be discussed at the diplomatic level, between Malaysian Foreign Minister (Syed Hamid Albar) and the Indonesian Foreign Minister (Hassan Wirayuda).
"Hopefully, in this way, any problem faced will be resolved in a cordial manner."
Mr Abdullah had earlier telephoned Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to discuss the issue.
TheMalaysian Prime Minister'sremarks are likely to bring rising tensions down by a notch.
In an indication of how seriouslyIndonesiaviews the dispute, its Navy last week sent three warships to the disputed oil-rich region. The Indonesian Air Force is also planning to mobilise four F-16 fighters to patrol the area.
On its part,Kuala Lumpuron March 5 sent a protest note toJakartaover what it called an intrusion into its territory.
InJakarta, Indonesian Defence Forces (TNI) Commander Gen Endriartono Sutartohad also tried to downplay tensions, saying thatIndonesiawas not having a confrontation withMalaysia.
“We want to resolve the matter through diplomatic channels,” he said.
When asked about the fact that both sides were deploying their military strength in the area, Gen Endriantono said they were doing it to safeguard their respective terrotiral integrity.
* M’sian, Indon Foreign Ministers to meet over Sulawesi Sea controversy (Bernama, March 7)
* Row between Jakarta and KL escalates (The Straits Times, March 7)
* RI, M’sian military chiefs agree to ease tensions in Ambalat (Antara, March 6)