THE HAGUE – Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has arrived in the Netherlands to thank the Dutch government for leading investigations into downed flight MH17 and offer condolences to victims' families, his office said on Monday.
Abbott jetted into Rotterdam Airport late on Sunday for a one-day visit, during which he was due to meet Dutch Premier Mark Rutte and sign a condolence register in The Hague. The Netherlands lost 193 citizens, while Australia lost 38 citizens and residents, when the Malaysia Airlines plane from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, killing all 298 on board.
The West accuses pro-Russian separatists of shooting down the plane. "I'm here, first and foremost, to offer condolences to the government and the people of the Netherlands on the extraordinary loss that the Netherlands has suffered in the MH17 atrocity," Abbott said in a statement. "I'm also here to thank Prime Minister Rutte and his team - the police and military - for the magnificent way they have led the police mission to the Ukraine," he added.
Abbott said he would discuss the ongoing investigation with Rutte and other officials, looking at "what needs to be done to ensure that the investigation is concluded, the guilty are punished and justice is delivered to the grieving families." The last Dutch forensic experts returned home from eastern Ukraine on Saturday after having to break off their investigation at the crash site because of the deteriorating security situation in the area, scene of rising clashes between Kiev forces and pro-Russian separatists.