MH17 crisis can be turned into opportunity for peace

MH17 crisis can be turned into opportunity for peace

Malaysia Airlines flight 17 was brought down as it flew over territory in eastern Ukraine controlled by separatist militia on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur last Thursday. All 289 crew and passengers aboard were killed.

Ukraine accused pro-Russian insurgents of destroying evidence at the crash site of Flight 17. Militia fighters were charged with refusing to hand over "black box" data recorders and inexplicably moving 38 bodies to a morgue in the insurgent-controlled city of Donetsk. Kiev also released recordings of what it said was an intercepted call between an insurgent commander and a Russian intelligence officer as they realise they had shot down a passenger jetliner.

US President Barack Obama and major world leaders are now agreed that the Malaysian jetliner was brought down out of the sky at 10,000 meters by a sophisticated surface-to-air missile fired from rebel-controlled territory.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a joint call for an independent commission to have immediate access to the crash site. They agreed that an international, independent commission under the direction of the UN International Civil Aviation Organisation should quickly have access and so shed light on the circumstances surrounding the crash.

But rebel leader Oleksandr Borodai denied tampering with any evidence, while President Putin blamed the tragedy on Kiev's three-month military operation against the rebels and insisted that its new leaders were solely responsible for security across the whole of Ukraine, including Borodai's Donetsk People's Republic, since its independence in 1991, which has marked the fault line between Russia and the West.

Well, the ICAO investigation may bring the truth to light. Borodai's Russia-backed militia has shot down a Ukrainian military helicopter and another Ukrainian military transport plane since his people's republic was proclaimed in Donetsk in May. Altogether 63 Ukrainian military personnel were killed.

If ICAO investigators are allowed access to evidence, they may prove the rebels mistook the Malaysian plane for another Ukrainian military air transport and fired a missile to shoot it down.

The Boeing 777 incident may lead to a new Ukraine crisis, and affect the newly independent Crimean state which plans to join the Russian Federation, and even influence the new Gaza conflict touched off by Israel's expansion of the ground operation to end Hamas missile attacks on Israeli cities once and for all.

Obama would like to bring international pressure to bear on Putin to attempt to back him off from trying to take the eastern part of Ukraine back to the Russian fold. Putin is resisting, of course, and the chances are that another East-West confrontation may develop.

On the other hand, both Obama and Putin may each concede tactfully to turn the crisis in the making into an opportunity for peace in Ukraine, the strategic country marking the East-West fault line.

Now that Putin has agreed to let the independent ICAO investigation go through, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko may order a halt to the attacks on the rebels. If it turns out that the jetliner was shot down by the rebels, Borodai has to apologise for the mistake, punish the culprits and pay compensation to the victims.

Then, Poroshenko and Borodai should talk and straighten out their differences to reach a compromise solution to the secession of the Donetsku People's Republic from Ukraine. Should Russia and the West put enough pressure on Poroshenko and Borodai, there would be a compromise satisfactory to all to restore peace in the largest country entirely in Europe which is also trying to keep Crimea within its domain.

We hope all the countries concerned will do their part to turn the crisis into an opportunity for peace in eastern Europe.

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