The Dutch cabinet has dropped its plans to send a military mission to secure the site of the crash of Malaysia Airways flight MH17, saying it would be too dangerous.
Such a mission would mean other countries getting involved in a regional conflict, prime minister Mark Rutte told reporters, following a cabinet meeting on Sunday.
The repatriation of the bodies of the 298 people who died when the Boeing 777 was apparently hit by a missile over a week ago, remains the Dutch priority. That aim will be endangered if the situation in the region escalates, Rutte said.
‘We have discussed all the scenarios over the past few days, including with military experts,’ Rutte said.
‘We have to state that a military mission could lead to an escalation, to a dangerous situation, and that could get in the way of our main target, that of bringing back the victims.’
‘Our conclusion is that it would not be realistic to aim for military dominance using an international mission,’ Rutte said.
However, the Netherlands does intend to send 60 more police experts and 60 unarmed military police officers to the region, Rutte said. A further 100 people could also be dispatched to eastern Ukraine if necessary.
Australia has now sent 50 police officers to the region and may increase that by 100. Malaysia is sending 68, Rutte said in his statement.
The 23 Dutch forensic experts already sent to Ukraine cancelled their plans to visit the disaster site at the weekend because of fighting between pro-Russia separatists and government troops in the area.
‘There is fighting going on. We can’t take the risk,’ Alexander Hug, of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), is quoted as saying by the BBC.
So far, 227 coffins containing the remains of the victims have been sent for identification to the Netherlands. The first victim has been identified, officials said at the weekend.
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