Wall Street Journal Says Malaysia’s Risky Negotiations with Rebels in Ukraine Paid off Well

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Photo Credit: Reuters

In a bold move that violated diplomatic protocol, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak put aside safety fears and sent a 12-person team into rebel territory to negotiate the handing over of the two MH17 black boxes, and the release of victims’ bodies.

European governments have been struggling with how to get access to the crash site without risking security. Najib, known as a calm and pragmatic mediator, risked a gambit that could have resulted in public embarrassment had it gone wrong. “He felt we were at a complete impasse and no one was getting anywhere with this” explained a source close to the Prime Minister. “People could blame him for negotiating with terrorists.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, a second source close to Najib’s office commented: “What was key to him was the outcome.” Being a predominantly Muslim nation, Malaysians are accustomed to quick burials. Therefore, the thought of bodies lying around the crash area was upsetting.

The Malaysian team, headed by Col. Mohammed Sakri, entered the warzone to meet with rebel leader Alexander Borodai at the base of their fragile political organization, the “Donetsk People’s Republic.” The Prime Minister was hands-on throughout the affair. In a phone call with Col. Sakri, he instructed; “tell people it was Malaysia’s plane and the team is going through to recover our dead and the plane, and that it is only right” reported a person familiar with the call.

Despite a favorable outcome for the families of the MH17 strike’s victims, Najib’s action has given the rebels a level of recognition that Kiev, Washington and even the rebels’ main backer, Russia, have tried to avoid. This recognition comes in the form of an accord signed by a Malaysian official, which calls the crash site “the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic”. However, US State Deputy Spokesperson, Marie Harf, says that the negotiation “in no way legitimizes” separatists. People close to the Prime Minister’s office are of this same opinion.

The success of this operation has brought political victory for Najib’s government which lost some popularity following its missteps after the disappearance of another Malaysia Airlines flight in March.

Story from: The Wall Street Journal

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