PETALING JAYA: Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s successful brokering of a deal, which saw the Ukrainian separatists handing over the black boxes and remains of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 victims, came in for praise from the international media.
The New York Times, in a report Monday, said the Malaysian Prime Minister had “apparently achieved what pressure from far more powerful nations had failed to accomplish”.
The report follows Najib’s announcement that the country had reached an agreement with the Ukrainian rebels for custody of the black boxes and access to the MH17 crash site.
Najib said he had spoken to rebel leader Alexander Borodai, who is in command of the region where the tragedy occurred, earlier on Monday evening.
He said independent international investigators had been guaranteed safe access to the crash site to begin a full investigation of the incident.
The New York Times in its report said it would be a diplomatic success for Malaysia if all participants honoured the deal.
“A big question, which was not immediately clear, was why the Ukrainian separatists chose to deal with the Malaysians at a time when the separatists were under pressure by many countries to release the bodies and surrender the black boxes.
“One possible advantage for Malaysia is that it has long been a leading member of the non-aligned movement of developing countries that sought during the Cold War to steer a neutral course between the United States and the Soviet Union.
“More recently, Malaysia has tried to maintain good relations with Russia, China and the United States at the same time,” it read.
New Zealand’s Stuff.co.nz reported that Najib had used “secret diplomacy” after “cautiously refusing to blame the pro-Russian rebels for shooting down MH17”.
“Najib has been criticised in Malaysia for failing to directly blame the separatists for bringing down the plane as anger grew across the country about the lack of dignity for the bodies, 43 of whom were Malaysians.
“But he instead held a series of secret telephone calls with Borodai who is believed to have said that he would only hand over the bodies and black boxes to Malaysia.”
Singapore’s Channel News Asia, meanwhile, described Najib’s agreement with the rebels as a “breakthrough deal”.
AFP reported that in stark contrast to the handling of MH370, Najib and his government have responded quickly and coherently to the tragic downing of MH17.
Within an hour after state-controlled Malaysia Airlines confirmed the flight was missing, Najib called for an immediate investigation and began working the phones with world leaders including Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
He also dispatched top officials to press for access to the rebel-held Ukraine crash site and demanded justice for those responsible.
“MH370 was a much more complicated situation ... but regardless, the leadership has moved with much more confidence (on MH17),” said Ibrahim Suffian, head of Merdeka Centre.
While leaders such as US President Barack Obama and British premier David Cameron laid ultimate blame for the tragedy on Russian support for the rebels, Najib refused to name names.