SINGAPORE: Malaysia welcomes and supports any proposal aimed at achieving an immediate and permanent ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza conflict, including the recently announced three-stage plan by US President Joe Biden, said Defence Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin.

Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD) plenary session, the minister stated that Malaysia firmly believes Palestinians must be granted the full right to self-determination and dignity, national independence and sovereignty, and the right to freedom of movement.

“The conflict has challenged our very conscience as human beings and tested our courage to confront and condemn acts of genocide.

“In line with the obligations under the Genocide Convention, Israel must immediately halt its military offensive and any other action in Rafah,” he said at the session titled Re-Imagining Solutions for Regional Stability, on Sunday.

Mohamed Khaled also suggested that the SLD, Asia’s premier defence summit hosted by Singapore since 2002, invite a representative from Palestine for inclusion and constructive dialogue.

Speaking on ASEAN, the minister said the bloc has thrived based on neutrality and will continue to remain neutral in the future.

“We should not be forced to take sides and will not take sides. Regardless, Malaysia’s position on any act to escalate conflicts in the region remains unchanged. I reiterate that being non-aligned is the best way possible while expanding multi-layered cooperation even with conflicting parties,” he said.

The minister highlighted that challenges to regional stability are exacerbated by emerging technologies, such as the systematic use of “unmanned aerial vehicles” (UAVs) to intensify conflict, along with global warming and rising sea levels depleting nations’ resources.

“Near our homes, the tensions in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Straits potentially trigger armed conflicts,” he added.

To avert these obstacles for long-term stability, Mohamed Khaled suggested the three-C outlook -- Constructive, Comprehensive, and Complementary -- that is essential to sustainable cooperation between ASEAN, its dialogue partners, and other like-minded countries.

Explaining further, he said regular constructive dialogue among countries is critical to bridging diverging interests, finding mutual grounds, and seeking favourable solutions.

“In 2025 when Malaysia chairs ASEAN, we will continue the tradition of being in the regional driving seat and preserving our centrality.

“We aim to provide a fertile ground for laser-focused solutions in 2025. Particularly on the pressing issues and ongoing negotiations concerning our region,” he said.

He said a robust initiation of comprehensive cooperation across domains, especially in marine pollution, natural disasters, maritime piracy, and cyber threats should be among the nation’s top agenda.

Mohamed Khaled said that while the existing ASEAN-led mechanisms should continue to be bolstered, looking beyond the current domains is pivotal to complement and add value to the existing architecture.

He noted that it is timely to depart from orthodox views on security by expanding the horizon on wider themes.

“This includes, defence education and leadership, military and public health and welfare, cyber and digital space, environmental technology and food security, as well as disaster risk management, which are all embedded in converging interests,” he said.

In addition, Mohamed Khaled emphasised that achieving long-term stability requires complementary cooperation across various layers and platforms. He noted that security pacts in the Asia-Pacific region should enhance each other’s capacity and capability.

He added that collaboration between ASEAN and other regional blocs, rather than individual countries, is worth exploring.

Mohamed Khaled has been in Singapore since Thursday leading the Malaysian delegation to the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) Defence Ministers’ Meeting (FDMM) and the SLD.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence stated that the participation of the minister in the Shangri-La Dialogue demonstrates Malaysia’s commitment and leadership in defence and security issues in the Southeast Asian region.

SLD2024, which concluded on Sunday, is the second international forum attended by Mohamed Khaled in person since his appointment as Defence Minister in December 2023.

He also paid a courtesy visit to Singapore’s Prime Minister Lawrence Wong and his counterpart Dr. Ng Eng Hen, in addition to holding bilateral and multilateral meetings with counterparts from strategic and key countries for Malaysia.