Prime Minister Rutte responds to Safety Board report on MH17 crash

Prime Minister Mark Rutte has responded at a press conference to the Dutch Safety Board’s preliminary report on the crash of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. The following are the prime minister’s remarks:

At 9.00 this morning Mr Joustra informed me and the prime ministers of Australia and Malaysia by telephone about the Dutch Safety Board’s preliminary report on the circumstances surrounding the MH17 air disaster. The victims’ next of kin were first given the opportunity to read the report in Dutch or English at 9.00 on a protected website. At 10.00 the text was made available to the general public.

This is once more a very difficult and distressing moment for the next of kin. Behind all the factual words and images that the Safety Board has presented is the terrible personal loss that the victim’s families have suffered. Today they are feeling and experiencing that loss even more, particularly those who still have no definitive information about the identification of their loved ones.

The great care and precision with which the Board has presented the facts that have been uncovered to date are therefore all the more valuable. All the independent international experts who have worked on the investigation are in agreement on these facts. It is helpful to know, for example, that the flight was proceeding normally until the moment that the aircraft was struck by objects from outside.

On Thursday there will be a meeting where the next of kin will receive a thorough briefing about the report. But of course the story will not end there. First, this is only a preliminary report. The Safety Board’s definitive conclusions will be presented in the course of 2015. The Public Prosecution Service’s investigation into who was responsible for this disaster is still in full swing. The search at the crash site for the victims’ remains and personal belongings has not been completed either. The two investigations and the search at the crash site will remain top priorities.

Together with the other affected countries, the Netherlands will continue to do everything possible to return to the disaster site in order to finish the work we have begun. I spoke about this task this morning with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. Whenever the security situation permits, however briefly, our team is ready to return to the site. I can inform you that the recovery team’s leader, Mr Aalbersberg, will be visiting Ukraine once more tomorrow.

Every now and then we receive information that seems to be entirely unambiguous. This was the case again yesterday. And yet we need to be wary of leaping too quickly to conclusions. The Netherlands is leading the investigations. The experts are working, step by step, towards irrefutable conclusions. No one is more eager than we are to find out what happened. But for that very reason, we need to proceed with the utmost care. If new information emerges that can help establish the truth, full use will of course be made of it.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Dutch Safety Board has today taken an intermediate step that will certainly help us move forward on the road that lies ahead. But there is still a long way to go. We owe it to the victims’ next of kin to do everything in our power to secure the victims’ remains and personal belongings, to achieve clarity about the circumstances of this tragedy, and to bring those responsible to justice.

Thank you.