Indonesian and Malaysian negotiators are scheduled to resume talks in July on the dispute over border claims in the Ambalat waters off northeastern Borneo, Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said on Tuesday.
Hassan said the 13 bilateral discussions held since 2005 to resolve the Ambalat dispute had so far failed to yield an agreement, and added that border issues were difficult to settle.
“We are going to discuss [Ambalat] with our Malaysian counterparts this July and the Indonesian team will be headed by Arief Havas Oegroseno, the Foreign Ministry’s director general for international treaties and legal affairs,” Hassan said.
“Negotiations regarding border issues have never been easy,” he said. “As an example, with Singapore, we needed five years to agree on the western side segment of both countries’ marine borders, which was a very short one.”
Citing another example of how tough discussions regarding maritime borders between nations were, Hassan said it took 32 years for Indonesia and Vietnam to agree on their Exclusive Economic Zone in the South China Sea.
Hassan said border disputes were not the kind of problems that could be resolved the day after it occurred. “As far as I know, it happens with many countries,” he said, referring to difficult negotiations over border issues.
However, he stressed that negotiation was the only way to settle border disputes.
On Friday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said the ministry had sent 36 diplomatic notes to Malaysia concerning the conflicting claims to the oil-rich Ambalat waters since 1980.
He said the first of them was sent soon after Malaysia unilaterally issued a map in 1979 that showed the Ambalat area under its territorial jurisdiction. The Malaysian claim, he added, not only disadvantaged Indonesia but also the Philippines, China and Taiwan.
The Ambalat dispute made headlines again recently when the Indonesian Navy said it intercepted on May 25 a Malaysian naval ship encroaching 12 nautical miles into waters that Indonesia claims as its territory.
Malaysia claims part of the oil-rich Ambalat region based on the 1979 maritime chart, while Indonesia bases its claim on the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The dispute over Ambalat has only fueled tension between the neighboring nations, already high because of a number of issues including the mistreatment of Indonesian workers in Malaysia and the case of Manohara Odelia Pinot, an Indonesian teenage model who claimed she had been abused by her husband, a prince from the Malaysian state of Kelantan.