Tony Abbott says the first phase of repatriating MH17 victims to Australia is complete with bodies and personal belongings having been collected.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has told the Dutch defence chief that people who want to see a better world are pleased the two countries are working together to bring to justice those who blasted MH17 out of the sky.
Mr Abbott met General Tom Middendorp and top Dutch police officers in The Hague on Monday morning.
He was accompanied by Australia’s defence chief, Air Chief Marshall Mark Binskin, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) Commissioner Tony Negus and MH17 special envoy Angus Houston.
Mr Abbott said the first phase of repatriating victims to Australia was complete with bodies and personal belongings having been collected from the crash site in eastern Ukraine.
“I think we can be confident that what is readily recoverable has been recovered and that is the least we can do for our people (and) for their grieving relatives,” the prime minister said before the official talks at the Dutch defence ministry.
“People who want to see a better world I think are encouraged to see Australia and the Netherlands working together to ensure some measure of justice at least is belatedly accorded to the people on that flight.”
Mr Abbott thanked General Middendorp and all the Dutch personnel “who so ably led what we call Operation Bring Them Home.”
“We were, of course, united in grief, anger, and the search for justice in the aftermath of this terrible atrocity,” he said, adding that the intrinsic friendship and co-operation between the two countries clicked into gear after the disaster resulting in a smooth partnership.
Mr Abbott has said pro-Russian militants are responsible for downing Malaysia Airlines flight 17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17.
The investigation at the crash scene has been suspended due to safety concerns after fighting between Ukrainian forces and rebels intensified.
But Mr Abbott has pledged that if fighting subsides and authorities think there are more remains to recover “obviously we’ll go back”.
Some of the hundreds of the Australian military and police personnel involved in Operation Bring Them Home are now in the process of heading home themselves.
A small team of forensic experts remains at a temporary morgue at Hilversum military barracks helping to identify the victims including 38 people who called Australia home.
Mr Abbott later on Monday will travel to Eindhoven airbase to inspect one of the RAAF C-17 transporters that has been used to repatriate bodies from Ukraine’s second-biggest city Kharkiv.
He will meet with RAAF crew and have lunch with ADF personnel.
The Liberal leader will subsequently lay a floral tribute to the victims at Hilversum and talk with the forensic experts who are using DNA, fingerprints and dental records to identify victims.
The trip will conclude with a bilateral meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Monday evening.
Mr Abbott and his party will then fly to London for talks with the British government and officials about counter-terrorism operations and the deteriorating situation in Iraq.
He’ll meet on Tuesday with UK foreign secretary Philip Hammond and defence secretary Michael Fallon before flying back to Australia, arriving home on Thursday morning.
All up the prime minister will have spent more time in the air than on the ground during his whistle-stop European trip.