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Malaysia, Indonesia end 18-year sea border disputes, vow to cooperate in defending palm oil industry

By Associated Press
Published: June 8, 2023, 7:52am

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia and Indonesia signed agreements Thursday that ended longstanding maritime border disputes and vowed to bolster cooperation to fight “highly detrimental discriminatory” measures against palm oil.

Visiting Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim witnessed the signing of two landmark treaties on the delimitation of the nations’ territorial seas in parts of the Straits of Malacca and the Sulawesi Sea. Other signed pacts included plans to improve border crossings, strengthen border trade and promote investment.

“After 18 years of negotiations … praise be to God, it has finally been resolved,” Widodo told a joint news conference, in reference to the sea treaties.

Widodo arrived in Malaysia on Wednesday accompanied by his wife and Cabinet ministers after a short visit to Singapore. His two-day visit reciprocates Anwar’s trip to Indonesia in January, shortly after Anwar took office.

In a joint statement after their meeting, the leaders said the signing of the treaties will provide a strong foundation for future maritime boundary negotiations. They pledged to resolve other land boundary issues by June 2024.

The two leaders also reiterated their stand to cooperate closely to battle the European Union’s “highly detrimental discriminatory measures” against palm oil. They urged the EU to work toward a “fair and equitable resolution.”

“We will speak in one voice to defend the palm oil industry,” Anwar told the news conference.

The EU introduced a new law this year banning the import of commodities linked to deforestation, a move that is expected to hit Malaysia and Indonesia. The two countries, which jointly account for 85% of global palm oil output, reportedly sent a joint mission to Brussels last week to try and resolve the matter with the EU.

Jokowi said the two countries also agreed to set up a mechanism to better protect Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia, without giving details. Indonesians make up the bulk of over two million foreign workers in Malaysia, mostly in plantations, industries and as maids.