MH17: speech at the UN Security Council by FM Frans Timmermans

STATEMENT BY H.E. Frans Timmermans

New York, 19 September 2014

STATEMENT BY H.E. Frans Timmermans, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to United Nations Security Council on Ukraine and MH17.

Madam President,

On 17 July, the downing of flight MH17 caused the death of 298 innocent people. Their lives ended abruptly in midair above Ukrainian territory. 298 innocent people from e countries and four continents. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who lost their loved ones.

Four days later, I had the honor to address this Council. That day, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2166. We remain grateful for that. And we appreciate today’s opportunity to brief the Council on where we are two months and two days after this unspeakable tragedy.

We remain fully committed to completing the repatriation of human remains and personal belongings and to facilitating the investigation into the cause of the crash. We will continue to devote ourselves to ensuring justice for the victims and their loved ones. We will not rest until those responsible for this heinous crime are held accountable.

Let me recall here paragraph three of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Netherlands and Ukraine in which we agree that “The Netherlands will coordinate the investigation into the circumstances of the accident and will be responsible for the conduct of the investigation in line with the provisions of Chapter 5 of Annex 13 to the Chicago Convention. The Netherlands will ensure the participation of other parties concerned, in particular Ukraine as the State of Occurrence, Malaysia as the State of Registry, the United States of America as State of Manufacture and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The Netherlands will communicate the report and findings to the concerned states. Ukraine will use every means available to facilitate the investigation”.

I want to thank the countries that have actively supported the implementation of resolution 2166. It has been a privilege working with you. We are particularly appreciative of the OSCE’s tireless efforts on the ground.

We have tremendous respect for the work done by the rescue workers. Initially by people from Ukraine. Later by a joint team of Malaysian, Australian and Dutch forensic experts.

Regrettably, rescue and investigation operations at the crash site had to be suspended on 6 August because of the deteriorating security situation. We are determined to finish this work as soon as the security situation allows us to do so. I urge all relevant parties to ensure immediate and safe access to the site. We count on all of you to make full implementation of resolution 2166 possible.

For the Netherlands, the first priority is to bring home the remains of the victims and their personal belongings. At present, 225 of the 298 victims have been identified in the ongoing identification process. This excruciatingly difficult work is being carried out by experts from eleven different countries. They deserve our deepest respect.

Most of the remains have been recovered, but we have the duty to make sure that all remains and belongings are brought home. We will continue to cooperate intensively with all countries and international organizations involved to make this happen.

As stipulated in resolution 2166, a thorough investigation into the cause of the crash is underway. In accordance with the agreement signed with Ukraine, the independent Dutch Safety Board has assumed the lead in this investigation, in close cooperation with other countries involved as well as with the UN and ICAO. It has set up the investigation in full accordance with international law and regulations, in particular ICAO agreement annex 13 which prescribes rules that need to be followed.

In accordance with these requirements the following countries have contributed to the international investigation team: Australia, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, Russia, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States. ICAO and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) have also contributed to the investigation.

The Safety Board is committed to transparency and will take all relevant information into account.
I want to underline the independent nature of the Board. Neither the Dutch government nor any other government has any control over or influence on its work and its conclusions and recommendations.

My government is committed to the truth and nothing but the truth. The full independence of the Safety Board is the best way to ensure this.

According to paragraph 7.1 of ICAO Annex 13, a preliminary report was presented by the Safety Board on 9 September. This preliminary report provides an overview of the initial, provisional facts. The report has been sent to ICAO for consideration. ICAO president Aliu remarked that ICAO is encouraged to see that the MH17 investigation is proceeding with the productive collaboration of accredited international representatives. ICAO will continue to provide its full support to the Netherlands, in conjunction with its international team, while it awaits the conclusions and recommendations which will be contained in the accident’s Final Report.

For the final report, also required by ICAO Annex 13, further consideration of available data, including those deduced from remains of the victims, is needed.

As the preliminary report states, even though additional investigation at the crash site itself would be preferable, it is possible to conduct an effective investigation based on other available sources and to produce a final report. The final report is expected to be published next summer.

The Netherlands remains fully committed to bring those responsible for this heinous act to justice. The Netherlands Public Prosecution Service has started the largest criminal investigation in Dutch history.

The Public Prosecution Service has set up close cooperation with national investigation and prosecution authorities of all other countries affected by this tragedy. We all share the same goal: those responsible, need to be brought to justice.

My government has been informed by the Public Prosecution Services that the investigation is complex, but that progress is being made.

For all three dimensions of the crash of MH17: recovery, investigation and accountability, it remains of utmost importance to gain safe access to the site as soon as possible.

We have deployed personnel in Ukraine, so they can move to the crash site as soon as the security situation is stable enough. Therefore we call on all parties once again to respect the ceasefire and refrain from any action that might provoke further violence.

We are conscious of the responsibility we have taken upon ourselves. We will do whatever is needed to live up to this responsibility.

Madam President,

Let me conclude with the same words I used last time I addressed this Council:

“My country will not rest until all facts are known and justice is served.”


Over Hans de Vreij

Retired Dutch journalist. Covered EU, NATO, UN, security & defense. Was correspondent in Berlin, Brussels, Geneva, Prague. Studied Russian language & literature.
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