The National Security Council (NSC) met this afternoon to discuss the UK’s response to the MH17 disaster and situation in Eastern Ukraine; and the situation in Israel and Gaza.
On the MH17 disaster, the discussion focused on 2 areas: the immediate priority to recover and repatriate the victims; and the longer term consequences for the UK’s relationship with Russia.
The Foreign Secretary provided an update on the situation following on from a cross-Whitehall meeting that he had just chaired. Progress has been made to repatriate the victims and a train carrying the bodies is now en route to Kharkiv, from where they will be flown to the Netherlands. One of the UK experts will be in Kharkiv to assist with the identification process and more experts will travel to Holland to help with repatriation of the victims.
On the UK’s relationship with Russia, the National Security Council agreed that the UK should work with our European partners and the US to ensure that we do what is necessary to stand up to Russia and to make clear that they must take steps to put an end to the conflict in Ukraine. The first step should be further EU sanctions at the Foreign Affairs Council tomorrow with a view to ratcheting up the pressure further on Russia in the future if President Putin does not change course. The NSC concluded that the European Union also needed to have a broader review of its long term relationship with Russia given her behaviour over recent months.
On Israel and Gaza, they agreed that the priority is to secure support from both sides for a durable ceasefire and they noted that the Palestinian Authority, as the representative of the Palestinian people, had engaged substantively to secure such a ceasefire. There was clear consensus over Israel’s right to defend itself from Hamas’ repeated attacks and they noted that Israel’s air defence system had helped to significantly reduce civilian casualties by intercepting the majority of the 1880 rockets fired by Hamas in the last fortnight. They agreed that we should continue to urge the Israelis to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties and to exercise restraint.