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Singapore and Malaysia delay meeting amid territorial spat

Traffic passing along the Johor-Singapore Causeway. (Yahoo News Singapore file photo)

Singapore and Malaysia agreed to postpone a ministerial meeting amid a dispute on territorial waters, a sign that tensions between the neighbours may be intensifying in spite of efforts to forge closer ties.

Singapore proposed delaying the Jan. 14 meeting after what it called an “intrusion” into its waters by Osman Sapian, chief minister of Johor, the Malaysian state closest to the island-nation, it said in a statement. Osman said in a Facebook post the area he visited isn’t in Singapore waters.

The bickering between the two nations over issues ranging from air space to the price of water supplied to the city-state deepened after Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad led the opposition coalition to victory in the May elections. The foreign ministers of both countries reiterated efforts to improve bilateral ties earlier this week.

Malaysia confirmed the postponement in a statement on Sunday, saying that the state chief minister’s Jan. 9 port visit was within its own waters.

The governments are in communication and agreed that both sides should remain calm and not sensationalise matters, according to the statement, and both parties will continue to meet to discuss “other bilateral issues.”

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P