Authorities from Malaysia, Australia and China will hold a meeting to determine the next step in the search for missing flight MH370 as the deadline for halting the hunt for the plane approaches.
The Australian-led hunt for wreckage from the flight is expected to finish its high-tech scanning of a designated swathe of sea floor in the remote Indian Ocean by July.
Speaking on the two-year anniversary of the disappearance of the plane, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak says he still holds out hope of finding the Malaysia Airlines aircraft, which crashed en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board, including six Australians.
The Malaysian Prime Minister said on Tuesday that a meeting would be held to determine the next step, if the plane is not found by mid-year.
“The current search operation is expected to be completed later this year, and we remain hopeful that MH370 will be found in the 120,000 square kilometre area under investigation,” he said.
“If it is not, then Malaysia, Australia and China will hold a tripartite meeting to determine the way forward.”
So far, only a piece of wing, known as a flaperon, discovered in July last year has been confirmed by authorities to belong to the missing Boeing 777.
Earlier, Australian Transport Minister Darren Chester said finding the aircraft would give answers to the world, in particular the families of missing loved ones.
“We owe it to their memory and to the loved ones who mourn them, to honour the undertaking to complete the search of the area experts have determined as most likely to contain the missing aircraft,” Mr Chester said.
Mr Najib said the discovery of debris – the flaperon – on the island of Reunion last July provided further evidence that “flight MH370 tragically ended in the southern Indian Ocean”.
“But we know that neither the passage of time, nor this evidence, will comfort those whose grief cannot be assuaged.”
“We remain committed to doing everything within our means to solving what is an agonising mystery for the loved ones of those who were lost. On this most difficult of days, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who will never be forgotten.”