Sun, Jul 20, 2014 - Page 5 News List

Flight MH17: Obama says crash has wider implications

RESPONSIBILITY:Without directly blaming Moscow for the downing of Flight MH17, Obama accused it of failing to stop the violence which made it possible

Reuters, HRABOVE, Ukraine and WASHINGTON

US President Barack Obama said the downing of a Malaysian jetliner in a Ukrainian region controlled by Russian-backed separatists should be a “wake-up call for Europe and the world” in a crisis that appears to be at a turning point and warned Russia of possible tightening of sanctions.

While stopping short of blaming Russia for Thursday’s crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, in which 298 people died, Obama accused Moscow of failing to stop the violence that made it possible to shoot down the plane.

The US has said the jetliner was hit by a surface-to-air missile fired from rebel territory.

A senior US official said there was increasing confidence that the missile was fired by separatists and that there was no reason to doubt the validity of a widely circulated audiotape in which voices identified as separatists discussed the downing of the plane.

“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 localized, it is not going to be contained,” Obama told reporters on Friday.

Obama spoke by telephone later with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

The White House said they discussed Ukraine and the downed jet and the need for an unimpeded international investigation into what happened.

Malaysian Minister of Transport Liow Tiong Lai yesterday said he would fly to the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, to ensure an investigating team gets safe access to the site.

Malaysian Minister of Defense and former transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein said a main priority was to ensure debris was not tampered with.

“We want to get to the bottom of this,” he said, adding that Malaysia had been in touch with officials in Russia, Ukraine, the US, Britain and China.

“We do not have a position until the facts have been verified, whether the plane was really brought down, how it was brought down, who brought it down,” he said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) called for a fair and objective investigation as soon as possible.

International observers said gunmen stopped them examining the site properly when they arrived there on Friday. More than half of the victims were Dutch, in what has become a pivotal incident in deteriorating relations between Russia and the West.

Obama ruled out military intervention, but said he was prepared to tighten sanctions.

Russia, which Obama said was letting the rebels bring in weapons, has expressed anger at implications it was to blame, saying people should not prejudge the outcome of an inquiry.

There were no survivors from Flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, a Boeing 777. The UN said 80 of the 298 aboard were children. The deadliest attack on a commercial airliner, it scattered bodies over kilometers of rebel-held territory near the border with Russia.

The loss was the second devastating blow for Malaysia Airlines and the country this year, following the disappearance of Flight MH370 in March with 239 passengers and crew on board on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Makeshift white flags marked where bodies lay in corn fields and among the debris. Others, stripped bare by the force of the crash, had been covered by polythene sheeting weighed down by stones, one marked with a flower in remembrance.

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