MH17 probe not truly independent and intl tribunal aimed at hiding its ineffectiveness – Lavrov
Russia’s top diplomat was speaking to the Singapore-based Channel News Asia and mentioned that one of Moscow’s main gripes is that its experts are not being given full access to the information that is being used in the investigation, which is being conducted by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) - made up of Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands, Ukraine, and Malaysia.
“The representative of the Russian Civil Aviation Organization is participating in these procedures, but the information we receive through this representative is not complete. We are being given less information than those who started the investigation,” Lavrov said during a visit to the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.
Lavrov was adamant in saying that Russia wants “the truth to be established and the culprits to be brought to justice.” However, the Russian foreign minister admits that he is becoming frustrated as the investigation was “not independent, was not comprehensive and not truly international.”
“All our attempts to push the investigation, to make it transparent, to provide information… all our attempts to get answers to the questions which we formulated through our professional civil aviation agency, all these were just stonewalled,” he said.
Malaysia wants the truth
Russia is not the only country that has had limited access to investigation. Despite owning the airline, which was involved in the tragedy, Malaysia was only admitted to the JIT in December 2014, some six months after MH17 was downed over east Ukraine, a decision that Russia’s top diplomat found staggering.
However, unlike some other countries in the investigation that “seem to be quite prejudiced” and would prefer to “politicize the situation,” Lavrov is sure that Malaysia has the best interests of the victims of the tragedy at heart.
“We believe that Malaysia is the most sincere country in wanting to establish the truth. It has experienced two disasters with its airliners and I don’t see any political motivation in what Malaysia is trying to do.”
“There are those in Europe and the West who would like to use this tragedy to also achieve political purposes,” Lavrov said, alluding to those who had pointed the finger at Russia immediately after the tragedy occurred on July 17, 2014.
Lavrov slams international tribunal plans
Moscow has come in for criticism from the West for refusing to back a motion calling for a criminal trial for those responsible for the tragedy. Lavrov hit back, saying that rather than this being a planned international inquiry, it would have in fact been made up of just a handful of nations.
“The proposal itself was very peculiar. It was proposed in the draft statute to establish the tribunal based mostly on Ukrainian law and for the judges and prosecutors in the tribunal to be appointed by the Secretary-General without consulting the Security Council and that the judges should have experience in exercising Ukrainian and Malaysian law,” he said.
Lavrov was also curious why an international tribunal had never been used before, when passenger aircraft had accidently been shot down, with Russia’s foreign minister noting that on each occasion, there was “always some special way out.”
“In 1988, when the United States shot down an Iranian civil airliner, when Ukraine shot down a Russian airliner in 2001, the Lockerbie case... All these were considered criminal offences. The Security Council never created any tribunal to investigate these incidents.”
Lavrov is in Kuala Lumpur for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) forum. On the sidelines of the summit, he has already met with a number of foreign minister’s, including a discussion his Malaysian counterpart, Anifah Aman.
"The two sides exchanged views on the prospects of boosting cooperation in the political, trade, economic, military, technical and humanitarian areas," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, as cited by TASS. "The two sides paid particular attention to the course of the investigation into the crash of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17."
Earlier in the day, Lavrov explained Russia’s position regarding the Security Council veto, which has been met with anger in the West, saying, “The creation of the tribunal might be used as a pretext to hide the inefficiency of the investigation which is being conducted by the Netherlands," Lavrov told reporters.
Agreeing to disagree
Lavrov also held his second meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry in the space of three days. The pair discussed the threat that Islamic State poses, but were unable to come up with a mutual plan on how to deal with the terrorist organization.
"We all agree that Islamic State is the common threat, common evil. We agree that we need to join efforts to fight this phenomenon as soon and as effectively as possible," Lavrov said.
"For now we don't have a joint approach on how specifically we can do it given the stand-off between various players on the ground, including armed units of the Syrian opposition."