Joint press conference with Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, Frans Timmermans

  • Transcript, E&OE

JULIE BISHOP: Five days ago the world was horrified by reports that a commercial airliner, carrying 298 innocent passengers and crew had been shot down over Eastern Ukraine. Five days later, the shock, the outpouring of grief has been overtaken by outrage as we have seen and heard reports of the crash site being contaminated. We have seen and heard reports of bodies being tampered with, of investigators being denied access to the site, and the looting of victims' belongings.

The options for what has happened have narrowed considerably. And it is now pretty clear what happened; we just need to determine who did it. This plane was shot down in Russian-backed rebel-held territory in Eastern Ukraine. And we need an investigation that is open, and thorough, and independent, and impartial - to find out who the perpetrators are.

That is why Australia moved so swiftly to bring this resolution to the Security Council, because we need the international condemnation of this barbaric act. We drafted the resolution on Friday; we circulated it on Saturday; we negotiated it on Sunday; and today it has been adopted unanimously.

The message from this unanimous resolution to those at the site is: do not tamper with the evidence; allow the investigators full access, unimpeded, unfettered, to the site; do not touch the belongings of the victims – they're not yours, they belong to the families, and they are evidence; and allow the bodies to be retrieved. The message to the perpetrators from the United Nations Security Council Resolution is: you will be found and you will be brought to justice.

I am joined today by my friend and colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs from the Netherlands. We share the pain and anguish of the Netherlands. Our loss was 37, the Netherlands so many times more, but together we will ensure that this incident will never be repeated. This barbaric act will be the last for we intend to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice. Our over-riding objective is to bring our people home.

FRANS TIMMERMANS: Thank you very much. I want to start by wholeheartedly thanking Australia for taking the initiative with this resolution, and especially the personal commitment from Julie Bishop that has made this possible. Without her perseverance, we would not be standing here today with this resolution adopted by the Security Council.

The fact that this resolution is now adopted means that, at the highest international level, we have backing for three things. First of all, that we can bring our compatriots back home – wherever that home may be. Secondly, that there will be a thorough, independent international investigation into what has happened. Thirdly, that there will be no impunity. Those responsible for this despicable act will be brought to justice. And Australia and the Netherlands stand firm in their commitment that we will not rest until our people are brought home, until a thorough investigation is committed, until those responsible are put to justice. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Thank you ministers. Michelle Nichols from Reuters. A question for you both: what makes you think that the armed groups on the ground will listen to this resolution? And a question for you Minister Bishop, is Australia considering firing President Putin from the G20 in November over this incident?

JULIE BISHOP: This resolution has been passed unanimously by the most premier international group that we could bring it before – and this includes Russia, who we know has significant influence over the separatists that have control of the territory that is the subject of the crash site. So with Russia's adoption of the resolution, it is incumbent upon Russia and all parties to ensure that the intent of this resolution is implemented.

As far as the G20 is concerned, that is in November. We are waiting to see the implementation of this resolution to ensure that we can achieve its objectives – and that is to ensure that the bodies are treated with respect and dignity, and we are able to achieve justice. That's our focus at present.

QUESTION: A question for both of you. Do either of you have an opinion on the Russian statement that it has in fact been cooperating to date?

FRANS TIMMERMANS: Well, we haven't seen, until today, a firm commitment from President Putin. Today is the first day that he made a public statement that the separatists should cooperate with the international investigation. What I find mind boggling is that you would accuse the Ukrainians of being responsible, and at the same time you would not act while separatists are doing everything to make an independent inquiry impossible or more difficult. So I hope that Russia would now feel its responsibility, act upon its responsibility, if it doesn't, it is going to have an increasingly isolated position in the international world.

JULIE BISHOP: What we have witnessed over the last five days – the contamination of the site, the removal of bodies, the removal of evidence, the trampling both of bodies and parts of the plane – could have all been prevented. This did not have to be. And Russia has the influence over the separatists and could have enforced an appropriate crash site, and created the conditions for this investigation to have been carried out immediately.

QUESTION: What makes you believe that you can do something in the investigation there if everything has been taken, parts of the missile? And it took this body four days to come up with a resolution. What happened?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, in terms of the resolution, we moved as quickly as we could. I outlined the timeframe. From the moment we heard about the crash and gathered its implications, we moved to draft a resolution, to circulate it, to negotiate it – and then on the first available day, Monday, we've adopted it unanimously.

As far as the evidence is concerned, that will be a matter for the investigators. We've seen on 24/7 media coverage what has been happening to the site. And so of course we have grave concerns about the integrity of the crash site. It should have been secured, like any airline crash site should be secured. It should have been secured as a crime scene and it has not been. However, we believe that there will be sufficient evidence to enable an impartial investigation team to at least narrow the options to show what happened. We owe it to the families to find those answers.

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