PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia (AFP) – The leaders of Malaysia and the Netherlands vowed Wednesday to keep pressing for access to the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and bring to justice those responsible for downing the plane in Ukraine.
Prime Minister Najib Razak met with his visiting counterpart Mark Rutte in Malaysia to discuss the Dutch-led investigation into the July 17 disaster, which killed 193 Netherlands citizens.
Malaysia says 44 of its nationals also were among the 298 people aboard the Amsterdam-to-Kuala Lumpur flight when it was brought down over strife-torn eastern Ukraine.
“We agreed that the priority should be to recover the wreckage, so that experts can identify both the cause of the incident, and the parties responsible,” Najib told reporters during a joint press briefing after their talks.
Investigations have been hampered by problems accessing the crash site as clashes continue nearby between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists.
Kiev and the West say the Boeing 777 was blown from the sky by separatist fighters using a surface-to-air missile supplied by Russia.
Moscow strongly denies the charge and has suggested the plane was shot down by a Ukrainian fighter jet.
“Malaysia is committed to bring the perpetrators of MH17 to justice, and we must do everything possible to ensure that justice is done,” Najib said.
An initial report issued in September by Dutch investigators found MH17 was hit by multiple “high-energy” objects, apparently backing up the missile theory.
The report did not apportion blame.
The government of Russian President Vladimir Putin has been accused by the West of creating the conditions for the disaster through its support – which Moscow also denies – of the rebels, and obstructing the investigation.
Najib said “we have preliminary knowledge (of what took place) but it has to be backed by solid evidence.” He did not elaborate.
There have been calls for the case to be referred to the International Criminal Court.
But Rutte, who flew to Malaysia aboard MH19 – the re-numbered former MH17 – said culpability in the crash was still too unclear for that.
Rutte has been vocal in his criticism of Russia’s lack of cooperation in the probe but both leaders refrained from harsh statements in the briefing.
Najib said he and Rutte “agreed that countries affected must work very closely together” and said Malaysia would seek to be part of the criminal investigation team, a move Rutte said he welcomed.
Rutte heads next to Australia for talks with Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who has vowed to confront Putin at the upcoming G20 summit in Brisbane over the 38 Australian citizens or residents who also perished in MH17.