Australia

Turnbull says colleague Craig Kelly's comments on MH17 'warranted an apology'

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The prime minister says Craig Kelly was right to apologise for saying Russia's involvement in the MH17 disaster should be 'slightly looked over'

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has welcomed Liberal MP Craig Kelly's apology for his comments on Russian involvement in the shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines flight in 2014, saying the backbencher's remarks did not reflect the government's line. 

Mr Kelly apologised after telling the grieving parents of three children killed in the MH17 disaster that nothing would bring their kids back, and suggesting alleged Russian involvement should be "slightly looked over" in the interests of better diplomatic relations. 

"His remarks do not reflect, obviously, the policy of the government," Mr Turnbull told reporters on Thursday afternoon. 

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Turnbull on Craig Kelly's MH17 comments

"They certainly warranted an apology, which I understand he has made."

Mr Kelly's comments came as families of the MH17 victims marked the tragedy's anniversary. 

"We can't fix things that happened in the past. We've got to make sure that the relationships between Russia and the US going forward are the best they can possibly be," Mr Kelly told Sky News on Wednesday.

“If that means some things Russia has gotten away with in the past has to be slightly looked over, well I’m sorry, that’s the price that we have to pay to have good relations going forward - nothing is going to bring those three kids back."

Almost 300 people, including 38 Australians, were killed in 2014 when a Russian-made missile shot down their Malaysian Airlines flight over Ukraine.

Mr Kelly's comments were slammed by the Opposition and the backbencher was forced to offer an apology on Radio National this morning.

"I unreservedly apologise for any distress I've caused to the families of MH17 victims... if my comments were taken out of context and have been blown up, I certainly apologise to everyone," he said.

"I'd also say to those families as well, I have the greatest respect for them."

Labor is demanding Liberal MP Craig Kelly apologise to victims of the MH17 atrocity.
Labor is demanding Liberal MP Craig Kelly apologise to victims of the MH17 atrocity.
AAP

But the Liberal MP went on to say Russia should be fully condemned for any involvement in the MH17 disaster.

"I myself would like to shirtfront President Putin for the conduct he's been engaged in and the lack of sympathy he's shown," he told Radio National.

The "shirtfronting" comment echoes then-prime minister Tony Abbott's vow to confront Mr Putin following the shooting down of MH17.

Mr Kelly's Facebook post at the time.
Mr Kelly's Facebook post at the time.
Supplied

Mr Abbott vowed to "shirtfront" the Russian President at the G20 summit.

At the time. Mr Kelly posted a Facebook status calling on Mr Putin to apologise.

Earlier, Labor leader Bill Shorten slammed the Sydney MP over his MH17 comments.

"I cannot believe he said this. Australians were killed. Children were killed. There are no excuses, ever. Craig Kelly should apologise to the families of the victims," Mr Shorten tweeted.

"We can't fix things that happened in the past, we've got to make sure that the relationships between Russia and the US going forward are the best they can possibly be."

The Australian government has been scathing in its condemnation of Russia’s involvement in the 2014 incident.

The Foreign Minister Julie Bishop recently said she considered Russia legally responsible for the downing of the aircraft and should pay compensation to the families of the 38 Australians killed.

In a joint statement of G7 foreign ministers last week, several international governments called for Russia to account for its role.

Perth father Anthony Maslin lost his children Mo, Evie and Otis when MH17 was shot down in 2014.
Perth father Anthony Maslin lost his children Mo, Evie and Otis when MH17 was shot down in 2014.
Facebook

“In a rules-based international order, those responsible for unacceptable actions, such as the firing or launching of the BUK missile of Russian origin, which intercepted and downed a civilian aircraft, must be held accountable,” the statement said.

“To this end, we call on Russia to immediately engage with Australia and the Netherlands in good faith to explain and to address all relevant questions regarding any potential breaches of international law.”

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