Sunday, January 23

Back-channel negotiations with separatists enabled M’sia to recover remains

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KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia had to use back-channel negotiations to recover the remains of the passengers and crew of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 that was shot down over eastern Ukraine in July, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. He said this unconventional way was very necessary and important as Malaysia had to engage in quiet diplomacy but that it was a successful communication with the separatists. “We realised that we needed to act and we acted differently and we did things that were rather unconventional. We were dealing with separatists, something that was unprecedented.

“Because, normally, as a government, you only deal with another government. But, here,

it was a movement, a separatist movement and there was this impasse. “… and we couldn’t retrieve the bodies; we couldn’t get our hands on the black boxes; we couldn’t have access to the crash site,” he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive seven-minute interview that was aired Wednesday. Najib said there was impasse when dealing with the separatists and this was among the challenges the government had to face to bring closure for the families of the victims. “There was this impasse; we didn’t know how long it would continue, and I felt I owed it to the families affected. Because that really moved me, because when I met them, I met each and every individual family and it really touched me.

“I was moved. I was almost in tears. I could feel for them; a huge sense of empathy, and I told myself, as a leader of the country, I needed to do something and I needed to bring a closure to the families,” he said.

Asked whether the Malaysian cabinet knew about his action, Najib said he had to take a decision and press the button in the operation himself via telephone with the separatist as it was a very sensitive issue. — Bernama