BRUNEI has dropped all territorial claims over Limbang, thus ceding the district to the state of Sarawak and recognising it as Malaysian territory, Prime Minister Dato' Seri Abdullah Hj Ahmad Badawi was reported to have told Malaysian media yesterday.
This was among the boundary issues resolved under the Letters of Exchange (LoE), which included the establishment of a "Commercial Arrangement Area" (CAA) and the right of passage for Malaysian vessels across Bruneian waters.
His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and Malaysian Prime Minister signed the documents at the Istana Nurul Iman.
According to Malaysian news publication The Star, Dato' Seri Abdullah said that the Sultanate had agreed to drop the "Limbang issue" as a result of the two nations resolving their land and maritime disputes.
"With this resolution, there are no more issues to haunt the close relationship between Brunei and Malaysia," the prime minister was quoted to have said at a press conference at the Malaysian High Commission here which was restricted to only registered Malaysian media due to "security" concerns.
In a joint statement, leaders of both nations noted the agreement of their respective governments on the key elements contained in the LoE, particularly the "final delimitation of maritime boundaries" between the two countries and the establishment of CAA, which resolves the dispute over oil and gas reserves located in the overlapping areas of the Exclusive Economic Zones of Brunei and Malaysia.
In 2003, arguments arose over four deep underwater blocks in the South China Sea after both countries awarded oil exploration contracts to foreign companies to the same area. Under the agreement, oil and gas revenues in the disputed area will be shared between the two nations. However, the ratio of how it will be shared was not disclosed.
The LoE also grants "unsuspendable rights of maritime access" for Malaysians travelling across Brunei's maritime zones to and from Sarawak, given that they observe the Sultanate's laws and regulations.
"The two countries would be able to enforce their rules and regulations and embark on new developments in their respective maritime zones," the joint statement said.
The modalities of the final demarcation of land boundaries were also included in the LoE, for which a joint technical committee will be tasked to sort out the final formalities. It will be resolved on the basis of five existing historical agreements between the governments of Brunei and Sarawak, and where appropriate, on the watershed principle.
His Majesty and the Malaysian Prime Minister believes that the signing of the LoE will "pave the way for the development of strategic partnership and closer collaboration between the two countries in all fields," according to the statement.
Earlier yesterday, His Majesty, Her Majesty Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha and Her Royal Highness Pengiran Isteri Azrinaz Mazhar received in audience Dato' Seri Abdullah and Datin Seri Jeanne Abdullah.
After that, a meeting between the two leaders was then held, followed by the signing of the LoE.
A luncheon was also hosted for the Malaysian premier and his spouse as well as the Malaysian delegation, which included Malaysian Foreign Minister Dato' Seri Utama Dr Rais Yatim, the Chief Ministers of Sabah and Sarawak and other senior Malaysian officials.
Also present yesterday was HRH Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office, HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, HRH Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Hajah Zariah, HRH Princess Hajah Rashidah Sa'adatul Bolkiah, HRH Princess Hajah Masna, the Ambassador-At-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, as well as other members of the Royal Family.
The Malaysian Prime Minister and spouse departed Brunei yesterday afternoon, concluding his two-day visit.
The Brunei Times