Rutte: 'Repatriation of victims' remains is top priority'
At 18:55 this evening Prime Minister Mark Rutte outlined the latest developments concerning the air disaster in Ukraine. 'Yesterday and today Frans Timmermans and I spoke to many of the players involved in repatriating the victims' remains,' said Mr Rutte. 'It was agreed that the Netherlands would coordinate the international effort to identify the victims.'
Prime Minister Mark Rutte:
Thank you and good evening. I would like to outline the latest developments. People all over the Netherlands have today been commemorating the terrible disaster that took place last Thursday. Tens of thousands of people have signed condolence books at local government offices or have expressed their condolences on the internet. Local communities are supporting the next of kin; sports clubs, churches, schools - everyone is involved. Amidst all the grief and sorrow, it is heart-warming to see the whole nation pulling together.
Tomorrow there will be a closed information meeting for the next of kin, which will be attended by the King and Queen, myself, and several ministers and state secretaries, together with family detectives and people from Victim Support Netherlands.
Yesterday and today, Frans Timmermans and I spoke to many of the players involved in repatriating the victims' remains. It was agreed that the Netherlands would coordinate the international effort to identify the victims. Dutchman Gert Wibbelink will head the team. This evening, a military aircraft will leave Eindhoven airbase for Kharkiv. It will carry the people and equipment necessary to set up a coordination centre in Kharkiv.
There have been many reports today about a train, located near the crash site, containing a large number of bodies. All efforts are now geared to moving this train to the area controlled by the Ukraine government. Frans Timmermans telephoned Secretary of State John Kerry today to discuss this. The OSCE is currently negotiating with the separatists.
According to the latest information, the OSCE monitoring mission was able to carry out its work reasonably unhindered today. The OSCE plans to send the identification mission, including the 'embedded' Dutch experts, to the crash site early tomorrow morning.
Today I again had several conversations with my counterparts, including Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister David Cameron, and this evening I will speak to President Putin again. All these talks are aimed at achieving our number 1 priority: putting pressure on all parties concerned in order to recover the victims' remains.
Frans Timmermans is currently on his way to New York for consultations with the United Nations and members of the Security Council. The aim is to further expand the international coalition calling for the speedy recovery of the victims' remains and to ensure that no stone is left unturned in our efforts to get to the bottom of the terrible events involving flight MH17.
Tomorrow morning Minister of Security and Justice Ivo Opstelten, Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk and myself will hold a briefing in the House of Representatives on the aftermath of the air disaster and the government's response in recent days.
That ends the outline of recent events concerning the terrible air disaster.