Brunei, Malaysia in close consultations
By M K Anwar

Brunei Darussalam and Malaysia are getting close to reaching some mutual understanding which will lead to the resumption of oil exploration off each other's overlapping territorial waters, following the current visit to the Sultanate by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi of Malaysia for the 11th Annual Consultation meeting between the two countries.

Quoting "a Malaysian source familiar with the proposal" Reuters news agency last night claimed that a joint proposal is expected to be announced shortly.

Sources, however, said that they were reluctant to give details because there was a small chance of some changes being made to the proposal and might not be announced this week, Reuters report added.

Oil exploration by both countries in the overlapping maritime territory came to a standstill about four years ago.

Discussions in resolving the issue have continued relentlessly in recent years.

One proposal that was mentioned years ago was a joint sharing or development agreement of the oilfield but this never materialised.

Based on the 10th annual consultation joint statement last year, both leaders wished to resolve without further delay the long-standing issue of the maritime delimitation.

Towards this, the Joint Statement mentioned that negotiating teams have been asked to explore all means to resolve the issue as soon as possible and both leaders expressed confidence that the issue will be resolved amicably.

Bernama, meanwhile, reported on the issue of boundary and maritime quoting Malaysian Foreign Minister, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar as saying that it is still being discussed at a closed official level meeting through a special committee since it involves some technical problems.

Talking to the Malaysian press, he said that the four-eye meeting between His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and the Malaysian PM touched on boundary issues that are still being discussed as part of the ongoing effort to find a solution beneficial to both countries.

Discussions during the annual consultation meeting also touched on the Sabah and Sarawak Development Corridor and Malaysia's keennes to see more foreign investors coming to the two corridors.

On international issues, the Malaysia and Foreign Minister said talks included the Asean Summit in Singapore, cooperation in OIC and problems in the Middle East such as in Lebanon and Palestine and also the Darfur crisis, where Malaysia is considering sending its military personnel under the United Nations flag.

Talking about the consultation meeting, Datuk Syed Hamid Albar said that this annual meeting is a process to further strengthen the bilateral relations and prevent any misunderstandings between the two countries.

He said there have been improvements in the entry and exit processes at border points for people from both countries as a result of previous discussions between the two leaders. - Borneo Bulletin (14th August 2007)