Australian peacekeepers possible for MH17 site: Bishop

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has left open the possibility that Australian peacekeepers could be dispatched to help secure the MH17 crash site in eastern Ukraine.


Ms Bishop confirmed she will travel with the Foreign Minister of the Netherlands Frans Timmermans on Thursday morning to Kiev, to discuss with the Ukrainian Government and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation Europe, the most effective way of securing the rebel-controlled region near Donetsk.

They will then continue on to Kharkiv – where bodies are being transported by military planes to the Netherlands – as part of the joint mission.

Asked if there might be a peacekeeping force involving Australia sent in to protect the MH17 crash site, Ms Bishop indicated it was an option currently on the agenda for discussion.

“I will be travelling to the Ukraine to meet with the Ukrainian leadership to build on the discussions Prime Minister Abbott has had overnight including with the Ukrainians, Dutch and others,” Ms Bishop told media following her attendance at a ceremony for the first 40 bodies of victims arriving back in the Netherlands on Wednesday.

“We must ensure the investigators and those who have the gruesome task of identifying body remains are able to do that in safety. Unfettered, without any tampering from anyone.

“We are looking at the most effective way.

“The work that must be undertaken (is) painstaking, long, difficult work. But we will not rest until we have counted every body, every Australian aboard that flight.”

Ms Bishop said Prime Minister Tony Abbott would be involved in details being worked out on Thursday with the Ukrainians and other leaders.

Australia will also be united with the Netherlands and other impacted countries in ensuring the perpetrators of the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 that killed 298, including Australian citizens and residents, nearly a week ago are brought to justice.

Ms Bishop said the government was determined to find who was responsible for the “atrocious act and to hold them to account”.

The government has already been in contact with the friends and family of Australian victims, about whether they wish to travel to the crash site.

“We are compiling an understanding of what friends and families are looking for,” Ms Bishop said.

“Our concern in all of this is to give the families their rightful embrace of those who were killed on that flight. We just want to bring them home.”

Australia’s special envoy in Ukraine, retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston said security was currently being provided by European security body OSCE and unarmed civilian escorts.

“They are doing a very fine job but it’s probably necessary to have something a little bit more than that. We just have to work out how that might be done.”

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman on Wednesday was asked about the possibility of international forces securing the area.