Malaysia's deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin called for calm Thursday amid reports that Malaysian warships had entered oil-rich waters off northeastern Borneo also claimed by Indonesia.
Indonesia says Malaysian warships entered the disputed Ambalat area in the Sulawesi sea last week and that an Indonesian navy ship came within moments of firing at a Malaysian vessel.
"We want to avoid any form of provocation that can cause unpleasantness. We must handle the matter with caution," Muhyiddin was quoted as saying by Bernama, the Malaysian news agency.
Muhyiddin was also quoted as saying that Malaysia had good relations with Indonesia and that it did not want to cause any problem that could hurt ties.
In Jakarta, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Indonesia would never back down from a fight but that dialogue was the best way to resolve the dispute.
"The government has never been lenient on the border violations committed by Malaysian warships in Ambalat waters," Yudhoyono said during a talk show on Anteve TV station.
"Although we have to drive intruders away, we don't need to open fire on them unless absolutely necessary," he added.
International borders in the area off Borneo island have yet to be determined, with each country claiming the area as its own.
Malaysia claims the area based on a 1979 maritime chart, while Indonesia bases its claims on the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which states the area belongs to Indonesia.
Muhyiddin said the Malaysian security forces patrolling the Ambalat waters had performed their duties responsibly and in accordance with regulations.
"Both parties must avoid any action that can raise controversy," he said.
Meanwhile, Malaysia's military chief Abdul Aziz Zainal denied that Malaysian warships had entered the waters around Ambalat, adding that he would visit Jakarta Tuesday to discuss the issue.
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