Humanitarian access essential at air-crash site

opinion July 20, 2014 00:00

By The Nation

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It is imperative that Russian-backed rebels allow international investigators unimpeded passage to the wreckage in east Ukraine

Nothing could have prepared Malaysia for what had happened this past week, as much as nothing had prepared the country for the mysterious disappearance of flight MH370 on March 8.
It was a grim coincidence and no airline, or country, deserves the back-to-back tragedy that struck our southern neighbour who experienced these two tragedies just six months apart. 
“This is a tragic day, in what has already been a tragic year, for Malaysia,” said Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. 
“As we work to understand what happened, our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of those onboard the flight. I cannot imagine what they must be going through at this painful time. The flight’s passengers and crew came from many different countries. But today, regardless of nationality, we are all united in grief,” he said.
As expected, speculation and conspiracy theories abound. But this is time for reflection, for healing, compassion and sympathy. 
All of us need to stand with Malaysia in this time of trouble and provide whatever moral or technical support we can to help our neighbour overcome this unfortunate incident that sent a shockwave to the rest of the world and a stern message that the conflict in Ukraine comes with a price.
What we know today is that the Malaysian jetliner came down in a region controlled by Russian-backed separatists. 
US President Barack Obama, while stopping short of blaming Russia for the incident in which 298 people died, accused Moscow of failing to stop the violence. 
“This certainly will be a wake-up call for Europe and the world that there are consequences to an escalating conflict in eastern Ukraine; that it is not going to be localised, it is not going to be contained,” Obama told reporters on Friday.
Moscow must come clean on this and so do the Ukraine separatists who are armed by the Russians. For a start, they should permit international observers access to the site so they can conduct a proper examination. 
The Ukrainian government is negotiating with the separatists in order to establish a humanitarian corridor to the crash site. This is a good first step. More could be done and more has to be done. The victims must not die in vain. 
The conflict has gone on far too long and Moscow could put a stop to it by stopping the flow of heavy weapons to the separatists and push for dialogue. 
More sanctions are on the way from Washington, as expected, and the European Union has imposed its own measures as well. 
How Moscow reacts to the initiative remained to be seen. But judging from Moscow’s recent behaviour, such as avoiding international mediation, getting Russia to stop the flow of weapons to the separatists may not be so easy. 
Regardless of how diplomacy unfolded, the world can not afford to let up on this. As Najib said, no stone will be left unturned and the culprits must be brought to justice. And that should start with getting proper unimpeded access to the crash site.