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May 19, 2008

INDONESIA-MALAYSIA/TIES
Neighbours pledge to settle Borneo border row

Malaysia and Indonesia will settle a thorny dispute about an oil- and gas-rich area of Borneo themselves, rather than refer it to the International Court of Justice, local dailies and agencies reported Sunday.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Rais Yatim said the two sides had formed a joint working group to study the border conflict over the Ambalat block and find a solution upon which both parties could agree, Malaysian newspaperthe Star reported.

"We have agreed to settle the matter amicably. We will seek the views of experts on the laws of the seas and territories for a solution," the newspaper quoted Rais as saying.

"We will also get a neutral group to give its views on this once we have got the recommendations from the technical committee which has representatives from both countries," he added.

Both countries have claimed the Ambalat block near their common border on Borneo island as their own.

The dispute erupted in February 2005 after Kuala Lumpur granted oil exploration rights to energy giant Shell in the Sulawesi sea near Malaysia's Sabah state and Indonesia's East Kalimantan province.

Both countries put warships, fighter jets and troops on standby in the area, raising tensions.

Rais said they decided not to settle the Ambalat matter before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which in 2002 awarded Malaysia two of the area's contested island, Sipadan and Ligitan.

"We are confident that we will be able to solve the ownership claims in a cordial manner. We have to do this as we value our ties," Rais said.


Malaysia is awaiting a ruling by the ICJ, due on Friday, on jurisdiction
over islands claimed by itself and neighbouring Singapore.




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