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Both sides must stop fighting at MH17 crash site: Najib

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak appealed on Thursday (31 July) for an "immediate cessation" of fighting between Ukraine government forces and rebels around the crash site of flight MH17 near the Russian border.

THE HAGUE: Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak appealed on Thursday (31 July) for an "immediate cessation" of fighting between Ukraine government forces and rebels around the crash site of flight MH17 near the Russian border.

"I ask the immediate cessation of the hostilities in and around the crash site by both Ukraine and separatist forces," he said after talks with his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte in The Hague.


MH17 STATEMENT BY PRIME MINISTER NAJIB RAZAK DURING JOINT PRESS BRIEFING IN THE NETHERLANDS WITH PRIME MINISTER MARK RUTTE


Ladies and gentlemen,

1. Like the Netherlands, Malaysia is in mourning. We mourn the loss of all 298 lives on board MH17.

2. And as we watched the first bodies arrive in Eindhoven, our hearts reached out to the people of the Netherlands, who have lost so much.

3. The flags flying at half-mast told their own story: of the nations who lost their sons and daughters. And of our determination to work together to bring them home.

4. Malaysia stands with the Netherlands, with Australia; with all countries whose people have been lost. We stand together, united in grief, and ready to help however we can.

5. Earlier, Prime Minister Rutte and I spoke about the continued military activity at the crash site; the inability of international investigators to deploy across it; and the human remains that may still lie there.

6. For the sake of the grieving families, it is imperative that all remains at the crash site are repatriated as soon as possible. Every single victim must be given dignity and a decent funeral.

7. Our other priority is to ensure the international investigators are given full and unfettered access to the site, so that they may collect evidence and carry out their vital work. Only then will we be able to find out what happened to MH17; only then can we achieve justice for the victims and their families.

8. The conflict in Eastern Ukraine may not be easily resolved. But the people on board that plane had no part in it.

9. We ask that there be an immediate cessation of hostilities in and around the crash site – by both Ukrainian and separatist forces.

10. We ask that all sides respect the lives lost, and the integrity of the site, so that the investigation may proceed. The long walk towards justice begins with this step.

11. A team of 68 Malaysian police has arrived Kiev today. They will work together with the Dutch and Australian teams to help secure access to the site.

12. Malaysia fully supports the international investigation, and we are grateful to the Netherlands for their lead role in the international team.

13. Repatriating the remains of victims as fast as possible is a shared priority. Malaysian experts are already helping here in the Netherlands with the painstaking task of identification – and we stand ready to provide more assistance if required.

14. On behalf of Malaysia, I would like to thank Prime Minister Rutte and the Dutch people for all they have done, and continue to do, for the victims of this senseless and tragic act.

Thank you.
 

THREE PRIORITIES

Rutte said crash investigators and those charged with retrieving bodies may not be able to access the site for days. He described the pain caused by the accident, in which 298 people died, many of them Dutch and Malaysian, as "almost impossible to bear".

Malaysia and the Netherlands shared three priorities, Rutte added: to bring home the victims' remains and belongings, determining the cause of the disaster and ensuring the perpetrators are brought to justice. "We will have to seriously take into account the possibility that we will not be able to gain access (to the crash site) in the coming days either," Rutte said.

Dutch and Australian investigators have been thwarted in their efforts to reach the site for five day in a row by fighting on and around the route there from Donetsk. "You may rest assured that we will continue to try again and again to reach the crash site so that the experts can do their work," said the Dutch premier.

Kiev on Thursday announced a day-long halt to its deadly offensive to oust pro-Russian rebels in east Ukraine in an effort to allow the investigators to access the site.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has also called for a halt to fighting in the area of the crash, where remains from some of the 298 victims lie festering in the sun some two weeks after the jet was shot down over rebel territory.

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