Ministers want Dutch military mission at MH17 site: report

Prime Minister Mark Rutte (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Sebastiaan ter Burg)Prime Minister Mark Rutte (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Sebastiaan ter Burg)

The Cabinet in The Netherlands is discussing the possibility of sending hundreds of soldiers from all over the world as well as forensic police experts to Ukraine to ensure the security of the site where 193 Dutch passengers died in a plane crash last week Thursday, the Volkskrant reports.

The Ministers are at the Catshuis, the official residence of Prime Minister Mark Rutte, in an emergency meeting to deal with what has now become The Netherlands' top priority.

As Prime Minister Rutte said from the beginning, the first priority was to make sure that all the victims' bodies were safely repatriated to The Netherlands. Now that this is underway, it has become an international mission to ensure that the crash site is guarded and secure for the team of investigators, led by Dutch experts, to inspect the site, as well as look for possible remaining bodies.

According to the Volkskrant, Rutte has attempted to obtain guarantees from the parties involved that investigators will not be in danger at the crash site, from the armed pro-Russia separatists ruling the area of Ukraine where the plane crashed. Rutte does not want to be dependent on third parties to safeguard the investigators, however, and has therefore begun lobbying for this armed mission.

Sources tell the Volkskrant that "it is very possible that this mission will happen in the not so distant future." Another source says that this is a "plan B" in case guarantees can not be secured for the safety of the investigators. The paper writes that the Cabinet is currently working on a so-called 'article 100' procedure to inform Parliament about the imminent mission.

Today, Foreign Affairs Minister Frans Timmermans will travel with his Australian colleague Julie Bishop to Ukraine to urge the authorities there to allow The Netherlands to lead the proceedings in the area. The Netherlands would act as lead nation for a group of countries who lost a total of 298 citizens in the tragic downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight bound for Kuala Lumpur.

According to the paper, the Dutch request to allow armed policemen into the rebel-held area in Ukraine was welcomed by self-appointed Prime Minister of the Donetsk People's Republic (DNR) Aleksander Borodai. There is some doubt as to how much influence Borodai has with the rebels, however. Last month, teams from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe were kidnapped in the rebel area.

Prime Minister Rutte does not want new victims, and spoke with the presidents of Ukraine and Russia to ask for their co-operation in this matter. If Ukraine okays the armed mission, then a bi-lateral agreement will prevent having to resort to a difficult UN-police mission. The 'police' in this case mean the forensic experts working for the police, not armed officers. Although armed soldiers will become necessary if the experts have to spend more than a day in the area.