Prime Minister Tony Abbott has met with his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte in Canberra where the pair have pledged to continue to pressure Russia for greater access to the crash site of downed Malaysian airlines flight MH17.
Mr Rutte shares Mr Abbott’s concerns that Russia is not doing enough to support the Dutch-led investigation into the deaths of 298 people, including 196 Dutch nationals and 38 Australians.
Mr Rutte says he’s expressed his concerns to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I used the opportunity again to tell him that I expect him to do everything he can to put pressure on the separatists to allow unhindered access to the crash site, to work with the Ukrainians to do what will be only natural and acceptable which is for Australia, Malaysia and the Netherlands and the other countries being involved to bring back the remaining remains the personal belongings and to do our investigation.”
Russian-backed separatists are believed to be responsible for the downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight over eastern Ukraine on July 17th.
Continued fighting has led to delays in the recovery of bodies and a forensic investigation of the crash site.
Mr Rutte visited Malaysia on his way to Australia, taking flight MH19, the call sign which replaced MH17.
Mr Abbott says he will confront Russian President Vladimir Putin over the issue when the pair meet during this weekend’s APEC meeting in Beijing, or at the G20 next week.
“We don’t want the investigation ridiculed, we don’t want the investigation compromised or sabotaged, we want full cooperation with the investigation. We owe it to our dead to secure justice and Russia as a member of the international community owes it to the world, owes it to humanity, to ensure that justice is done and wherever possible the perpetrators of this crime are brought to justice. So that will be the conversation that I’ll be having with Vladimir Putin at the earliest possible moment.”
Mr Abbott says Australia’s already close partnership with the Netherlands has deepened over the two countries’ mutual grief over the plane tragedy.
Also on the agenda at the talks were trade, security, infrastructure and investment.
The Netherlands has been one of the top five foreign investors in Australia for a number of years.
The value of Dutch exports to Australia exceeded one billion dollars in 2011 with the main products being machinery and medical equipment.
Over the next several years, Dutch investment will target gas projects in Western Australia.
The Netherlands is Australia’s second most important export market in Europe, after the United Kingdom.
Many Australian products – primarily coal and iron ore – pass through the Netherlands on the way to other European destinations.
Since the the Queensland floods the Dutch water sector has been involved in riverbank management and coastal protection projects in Queensland.
Mr Abbott says the relationship is strong, and getting stronger.
“The Netherlands is one of the largest institutional investors in Australia, after the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan, perhaps by some measures the largest institutional investor in Australia, so it’s a good relationship, it’s getting stronger all the time, as Mark said to me earlier today, physically we are many thousands of miles apart but emotionally and spiritally we’re next-door neighbours. I think that is a very good description of the strength of the relationship between Australia and the Netherlands.”
Mr Rutte is also meeting Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove and cabinet ministers and will thank foreign affairs officials involved in the MH17 effort.
It’s also expected he will meet the families of MH17 victims.