KUALA LUMPUR (AA) – Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak will travel to the Netherlands on Wednesday to discuss potential collaboration between the countries to investigate the suspected shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine.
Najib’s main focus during talks with Dutch premier Mark Rutte will be whether Malaysian pathologists would be helpful in expediting the process of identifying the human remains of the 282 recovered bodies.
“Both prime ministers will also discuss securing full access to the crash site, so that the international team can complete a comprehensive investigation to determine the cause of the crash, and who is responsible,” a statement from the Malaysian Prime Minister’s Department said Saturday.
The Kuala Lumpur-bound flight from Amsterdam crashed July 17 close to Ukraine’s tense border with Russia with 298 people on board – including 193 Dutch citizens and 43 Malaysians (15 of whom were crew members). There are no reports of any survivors.
Saturday’s statement explained that a team of three Malaysian investigators had visited the crash site on three occasions since Tuesday after Najib brokered a well-received agreement with Alexander Borodai – the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic pro-Russian rebel group that holds power in the region. The deal involves three main demands – including full access to the crash site for the investigative team and their safety.
“Each visit lasted approximately three hours. The investigators managed to observe some parts of the crash site and take notes and photographs,” the statement said.
“However, as the wreckage has been scattered over a vast area, they were unable to visit the entire crash site,” it added, underlining that at least 30 investigators were needed to cover the entire site – along with three Dutch investigators and an International Civil Aviation Organisation representative.
“Unfortunately, events on the ground, including ongoing fighting between Ukrainian and separatist forces hinder the deployment of such a large contingent of investigators,” the statement said, adding that Malaysian investigators hope to return with a larger team and in more secure circumstances once they finish compiling a preliminary report on their findings.
Razak is also slated to visit the Dutch forensic center where the victims’ bodies were taken and to sign a condolence book.
Najib Razak had announced Thursday that it may “take weeks or even months” to identify the remains of those on board the ill-fated flight due to the complex technicalities involved in the DNA verification process.
Tensions on the Ukrainian-Russian border have risen dramatically since Ukrainian forces ousted separatists from its eastern city of Sloviansk. Russia has shifted more troops towards the area and two weeks ago a Russian civilian was killed by shellfire Moscow claimed came from Ukraine forces.
Since the plane came down, Ukraine and Russia have exchanged accusations as to who was responsible.
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