The Swiss chairman of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has called for an impartial investigation into the circumstances of Thursday’s crash of a Malaysia Airlines plane over eastern Ukraine.
Didier Burkhalter, who is also Swiss foreign minister, expressed his sincere condolences to the families of the 298 passengers and crew of the plane, which is believed to have been shot down north of Donetsk.
“Too many innocent civilians have already died in this conflict. It is the common responsibility of all to put security of the people first,” Burkhalter said.
Burkhalter welcomed an offer by representatives of separatist groups in eastern Ukraine to secure the site of the crash near the Russian border for rescue teams and investigators, according to an OSCE statement.
On Friday, 30 OSCE representatives arrived on site by helicopter to help in the difficult rescue operation. But "they did not have the kind of access that they expected," OSCE permanent council chairman and Swiss diplomat Thomas Greminger told the Reuters news agency, and they were not able to secure an access corridor to the site. They planned to return on Saturday, OSCE said.
European Union officials said that Ukraine has first claim on the plane's two black boxes - a flight data recorder and a cockpit voice recorder.
In an interview with Swiss public radio, RTS, Burkhalter called on the rebels to hand over the black box of the Malaysia Airlines plane.
Whether the plane was shot down, and by whom, is unclear. The Russian and Ukrainian leaders have denied responsibility. US authorities and aviation experts say the Boeing 777 was likely brought down by a ground-to-air missile, but so far there is no proof of who fired it.
Following an emergency meeting held on Friday, the United Nations Security Council called for a "full, thorough and independent international investigation" into the downing of the plane.
Most of the victims on board the plane flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur were Dutch, Malaysian and Australian nationals.
The Swiss foreign ministry said it had no knowledge of Swiss passengers on board.
Glenn Thomas, a British national based in Geneva and spokesman for the World Health Organization, was confirmed to have been on the plane.