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MH17 recovery mission halted over security concerns

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-08-07 13:30

MH17 recovery mission halted over security concerns

Malaysian airliner crashes in Ukraine

THE HAGUE/KIEV - The recovery mission at the Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash site in eastern Ukraine was suspended until further notice due to the deteriorating security conditions in the area, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced Wednesday.

"The tension in the area increases and therefore, the experts cannot do their work in key parts of the area," Rutte told reporters, adding that it does not make sense to continue the recovery and repatriation mission.

The Netherlands, which leads the mission, also discussed the decision with its partners of Australia, Malaysia and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The relatives have also been informed.

"We would love to have stayed longer to be able to do our work thoroughly," Rutte said. "But the developments simply point in a different direction. We did what we could under the current circumstances, and everyone will agree with us that we cannot expose our people to unnecessary risks."

A small team will remain in the region and so there remains an opportunity for locals to transfer personal belongings or human remains to this team.

The head of the recovery mission, Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg, also confirmed in Kiev later Wednesday that the police personnel and experts would not search the crash area from Thursday.

"The safety of our people is our top priority. This was highlighted today when small calibre guns were fired close by the search team," he said. "In response, the team moved to a secure location. On the advice of the OSCE the team then withdrew to Soledar, our base to the north of the crash site."

"We have continually stressed that we must have three 'green lights' before our people can safely do their work: the Ministry of Defence's security analysis, the OSCE's advice and the commander on the ground," Aalbersberg said.

"These new developments mean it is no longer viable to get all three lights on green on a daily basis," he added.

Another flight with personal belongings of the victims will on Thursday fly to the Netherlands, where the identification work of victims is going on.

A total of 228 coffins had arrived in the Dutch central city of Hilversum, where forensic experts would identify the remains. But it is unclear how many of the total of 298 victims are among the remains. Up to now, two Dutch people have been identified.

"We hope to be able to know how many bodies of victims have now been recovered in about two to three weeks," said Rutte.

"There are 700 DNA samples now to be examined. Following that examination, we know the number of victims residing in Hilversum. But these victims are not yet identified. That process can, as I have said often, last much longer," he said.

The Boeing 777 jetliner, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, crashed in eastern Ukraine, killing all the 298 passengers and crew aboard, among whom 193 were Dutch and 28 were Australian.

The crash was shrouded in mystery amid suspicions that it was shot down by a missile. The international community has been calling for a fair, open and independent probe.

A 12-member US survey and assessment team has arrived in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev to assist the investigation.

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