JULIE BISHOP Our mission here is clear and that is to seek access to the crash site of MH17 so that our experts can get on with the task of retrieving bodies or remains that are still on the site and that our investigators can commence gathering the evidence that is needed for the full, thorough, appropriately independent air crash investigation.
Today I will continue my visits to the political leaders within the Ukraine Government - we’re about to visit the Defence Minister. Yesterday we attempted to access the site but our convoy was turned back due to the heavy fighting in the area.
We are accessing the situation in terms of risks day-by-day, hour-by-hour and we will not take any unacceptable risks, given that we have an unarmed force as part of a humanitarian mission. But we are determined to ensure that we will get to the site and undertake the work that the UN Security Council resolution mandated us to do.
So I’m off to meet with Ukrainian politicians to impress upon them the need for us to have access to the site as soon as possible. We won’t be here for a day longer than we have to. Our task is to get on the site, do our work and then leave.
JOURNALIST Do you have any information about who actually controls that site at the moment?
JULIE BISHOP I might hand to Angus Houston who is in charge of our strategic work here.
ANGUS HOUSTON It’s a very fluid situation. There’s been a lot of fighting up just to the south of the crash site. We have to make sure we know exactly what is going on, seek the necessary assurances from the authorities that we can get into there safely. And of course to do that, we have to work very closely with the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. They talk to all of the people who are involved in this conflict, including the separatists and when they are comfortable, when they are happy, we will go forward.
JOURNALIST Is it now your understanding though that the Ukrainian army control part of that crash site?
ANGUS HOUSTON As I say it is a very fluid situation. We’re watching it closely and it’s very dynamic. So you’ve just got to accept the fact that you don’t go into a fast moving conflict on a mission like ours. We’re going to take a conservative approach that is the correct approach. And as the Minister said, as soon as the window opens, the window of opportunity opens, we’re going to go in there, we’re going to do the job very quickly and come out again, hopefully in a matter of two or three weeks.
JOURNALIST Does that mean there will be no mission today?
ANGUS HOUSTON Well, we’re still working it. You are all here in Ukraine, you know how fluid the environment is and until we go through a whole bunch of processes, consultations and assess the risk, do the necessary assessments, we won’t be taking any decisions.
JULIE BISHOP Let me make this point. We will not be deterred in carrying out our mission. Day after day we will seek access to the site and when we get access, we’ll put in place the necessary protocols so that we can do it on a routine basis until the job is completed. We won’t take unacceptable risks but we’re absolutely determined to give closure to the Australian families that are grieving so much because of their loved ones killed on MH17. So we better get on with it today.
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