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Ambalat Block Dispute

Lawmakers from Indonesia accused Malaysia’s navy Tuesday of illegally entering its waters 19 times since May, reigniting a long-standing dispute over the resource-rich territory along their sea border.

The International Court of Justice gave Malaysia sovereignty to two islands north of the Ambalat oil and gas block in the Celebes Sea in 2002, but the maritime boundary remains in question. The Southeast Asian nations both claim Ambalat in its entirety.

“We told them to stop provocations in the Ambalat block,” said Djoko Susilo, one of five lawmakers who met Malaysia’s defense minister Tuesday to complain about the alleged incursions.

“They cannot claim Ambalat as theirs. No, Ambalat is ours and that is legally clear,” Susilo told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

On Sunday, Malaysian Defense Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said that Indonesian warships had encroached repeatedly into Malaysian waters but that Malaysia had decided not to complain in order to avoid ramping up tensions.

After weeks of tense confrontations at sea, Jakarta said it almost fired on a Malaysian patrol boat that penetrated 11 kilometers into its claimed territory May 25.

Ahmad Zahid said the issue should be resolved peacefully and suggested all naval patrols be halted until the matter has been resolved. Malaysia’s national news agency Bernama said Ahmad Zahid would head to Indonesia late Tuesday for talks with his Indonesian counterpart.

Indonesia’s Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono urged lawmakers to refrain from making inflammatory comments.

The spat over Ambalat also tested Malaysian and Indonesian relations in 2005 when both awarded contracts to foreign oil companies to extract an estimated 62 million barrels of oil and 348 million cubic meters of gas.

Indonesia’s underfunded military; which has suffered a string of air accidents that killed more than 100 people in recent months, may seize on the dispute to underpin calls for a boost to defense spending, Stratfor said.

Source : Associated Press

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