Meeting of the Security Council, New York, 21 July 2014

Statement by Frans Timmermans, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Mr. President,

We are here to discuss a tragedy: the downing of a commercial airliner and the death of 298 innocent people. Men, women and a staggering number of children lost their lives, on their way to their holiday destinations, their homes, loved ones, their jobs or international obligations, such as an important HIV/Aids conference in Australia. Since Thursday, I have been thinking: how horrible must have been the final moments of their lives, when they knew the plane was going down. Did they lock hands with their loved ones, did they hold their children close to their hearts, did they look each other in the eyes, one final time, in a wordless goodbye? We will never know.

The demise of almost 200 of my compatriots has left a hole in the heart of the Dutch nation, has caused grief, anger and despair. Grief for the loss of the loved ones, anger for the outrage of the downing of a civilian airplane and despair after witnessing the excruciatingly slow process of securing the crash site and recovering the remains of the victims.

It is fitting that this august Council should take position on this matter and I welcome the adoption of today’s resolution of the UNSC, which was tabled by Australia and which the Netherlands co-sponsored. I thank the countries which expressed support for it. And I particularly want to thank Julie Bishop personally. Julie, we are in this together.

Mr President,

For the Netherlands, one priority clearly stands out above all others: bring the victims’ remains home. It is a matter of human decency that remains should be treated with respect and that recovering victim’s remains should be done without any delay.

The last couple of days we have received very disturbing reports of bodies being moved about and looted for their possessions. Just for one minute, not addressing you as representatives of your countries, but as husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, just imagine that you first get the news that your husband was killed, and then within two or three days, you see images of some thug removing the wedding band from their hands. Just imagine that this could be your spouse.

To my dying day I will not understand that it took so much time for the rescue workers to be allowed to do their difficult jobs and that human remains should be used in a political game. And somebody here around the table talks about a political game – this is the political game that is being played, with human remains, and it is despicable. I hope the world will not have to witness this again, any time in the future.

Images of children’s toys being tossed around, luggage being opened and passports, including passports of children, being shown on television, they are turning our grief and mourning into anger of a whole nation. We demand unimpeded access to the terrain. We demand respectful treatment of the crash site. We demand dignity for the victims and the multitudes who mourn their loss.

I call on the international community, on the Security Council, on anyone with influence on the situation on the ground: allow us to bring the victims’ remains home to their loved ones without any further delay. They deserve to be home.

As we are currently taking the lead in the forensic examination of the human remains, I pledge that the Netherlands will do its utmost to make sure that all remains will be identified and returned home, where ever that home may be.

We will work intensively with all countries and international organizations involved to make this happen as soon as possible.

Mr. President,

I also welcome the setting up of a proper investigation into the cause of the tragedy of MH17, as envisaged in today’s resolution. The Netherlands has agreed to assume a leading role in such an investigation, in close cooperation with the relevant countries, the United Nations and ICAO. I am fully aware of the great responsibility we now take upon ourselves and I give you my personal commitment that we will discharge this responsibility to the best of our abilities. As far as the safety and security of the site and international investigators is concerned, I underline the responsibility the Security Council took upon itself with today’s Resolution to take additional measures if circumstances so require.

Once the investigation ascertains who was responsible for the downing of the flight MH17, accountability and justice must be pursued and delivered. We owe it to the victims, we owe it to justice, we owe it to humanity. Please, provide full cooperation so that justice can be served. We will not rest until all facts are known and justice is served.

I thank you, Mr. President.