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ASEAN, EU ministers condemn downing of MH17

ASEAN and European ministers meeting in Brussels have condemned in the strongest terms the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. But the European Union (EU) chose not to move to tougher sanctions like arms embargoes against Russia.

BRUSSELS - ASEAN and European ministers meeting in Brussels have condemned in the strongest terms the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. But the European Union (EU) chose not to move to tougher sanctions like arms embargoes against Russia.

Flight MH17 was shot down on July 17 in strife-torn eastern Ukraine, allegedly by separatist rebels backed by neighbouring Russia.

In a joint statement issued after the 20th EU-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, the ministers welcomed the adoption of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2166 on July 21 on flight MH17 and urged its full implementation.

The ministers expressed their shock and indignation over the tragic deaths of the 298 people of multiple nationalities on board the airplane, according to the joint statement made available by Jakarta-based ASEAN Secretariat. They conveyed their deepest sympathies and condolences to families and friends of those on board flight MH17 and to the governments and people of the affected countries.

The ministers also called for a swift, full and thorough, transparent and independent international investigation into the downing of the plane in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines. According to the statement, they demanded all parties in the area of the crash site to provide fullest cooperation, including assistance to the safe, secure, full, immediate and unrestricted access to the site and surrounding area as well as support to the appropriate investigating authorities.

"The ministers demanded that the armed groups in control of this site and the surrounding area refrain from any actions that may compromise the integrity of the crash site," added the statement. They demanded all military activities, including by armed groups, be immediately ceased in the immediate area surrounding the crash site to allow for security and safety of the international investigation.

They also agreed that those directly and indirectly responsible should be held accountable and be brought to justice swiftly. But the EU has chosen not to move to tougher sanctions against Russia like arms embargoes and targeted economic measures.

Instead foreign ministers from the 28-nation bloc would meet in Brussels on Thursday to decide on an expanded list of Russian individuals and entities which it would sanction for providing "material or financial support" to those responsible for the March annexation of Ukraine's Crimea territory and destabilising the east of the country, where MH17 came down.

Several EU ministers have called for an arms embargo on Russia to try to stem a flow of weapons that is fuelling the conflict, including surface-to-air missiles suspected of bringing down the Malaysian airliner. Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt was the most vocal, saying the EU decision not to move to tougher sanctions against Russia was tantamount to arming the aggressor.

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