PETALING JAYA: Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has taken a risk that no European leaders would but this has earned him the international community's admiration for his handling of the MH17 tragedy, says The Wall Street Journal.
In an article, it wrote that the Prime Minister took the risk, which was to send officials into a war zone to meet armed rebels whose government almost no one recognised.
"While European governments wrestled with how to get to the site without legitimising the rebels or risking security, Najib put aside diplomatic protocol and safety fears and sent his team," it said.
The article quoted a source close to the Prime Minister's Office as saying that what was key to Najib was the outcome of the move.
This resulted in the retrieval of bodies and black boxes from the separatist leaders at Donetsk.
"He was looking at people who controlled an area of land. And on that land was our plane, our bodies, our black boxes," the source said.
The article said the success delivered a political victory for Najib's government that was still reeling from missteps after the disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines plane in March with 239 passengers on board.
"But it also handed a gift to the rebels in the form of an accord, signed by the top Malaysian official present in Donetsk, calling the crash site 'the territory of the Donetsk People's Republic'," it added.
The recognition, said the newspaper, could antagonise Kiev and Washington, which strove to not give any credibility to the rebels whose main leaders were Russians.
However, people close to Najib's office said the dealings did not amount to recognition.
The article also said that Najib steered clear of joining many Western leaders in blaming the rebels for downing the airliner and preserved Malaysia's traditional stance of not taking sides among the United States, Russia and China.
"Instead, he quietly began looking for a back channel to speak with the insurgents," it said.
Najib, known as a calm and pragmatic mediator, managed to reach out to rebel leader Alexander Borodai, through an unidentified intermediary.
"Najib's intervention resolved a diplomatically awkward situation, enabling the bodies to be retrieved and an investigation to be initiated," it said.