In a display of insensitivity extraordinary even for a Brussels bureaucrat, a European Union official has told journalists that the downing of the Malaysian flight over Eastern Ukraine “provides an opportunity” for the EU to have “direct contact for the first time” with pro-Russian separatists.
The EU official was speaking on the condition he could be quoted but not named, according to Euractiv.
The official said on Friday: “What is important to watch is that terrible tragedy that occurred yesterday can open a space in political terms, a political space. As you know, we were running after the [pro-Russia] separatists for the last three weeks to get at least a conference call with them.
“After the tragedy that occurred yesterday, there was a conference call and they came out with clear decisions to protect and safeguard the area around the shot-down airliner. And the separatists even accepted some ceasefire, for the next 48 or 72 hours.”
According to Euractiv, the official added that he didn’t remember if it was 48 or 72 hours, but this was contained in the contact group agreements, which in his words “opens an opportunity on which everybody has to see whether we can move ahead with what has been the goal for the last few weeks of the EU, which is to end to end violence and implement the peace plan of President Poroshenko.”
The contact group is made up of senior representatives from Ukraine, Russia and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) convened on July 17 after the Malaysia Airlines disaster. The group had a conference call with representatives of separatist groups in Donetsk in which an agreement was reached that separatists would keep the crash site secure and allow access by OSCE monitors and international aviation investigators.
Aviation experts were invited by the European Commission to speak to the press. According to the Euractiv report, the analysts told the Commission that no independent sources had so far been able to confirm that the airplane was hit by a missile.