Australia has appointed a former chief of its defence forces to co-ordinate the country’s support for the search for flight MH370.
Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston will lead a new Joint Agency Co-ordination Centre (JACC) based in Perth, from where the search for the missing plane is being carried out in the Indian Ocean.
The Australian government is co-ordinating the search for MH370, which has involved 60 aircraft and ships, and co-operation between more than two dozen countries, including China. The JACC will try to maintain clear lines of communication between international partners and the families of passengers, many of whom are expected to travel to Perth.
“The JACC will provide a single contact point for families to gain up-to-date information and travel assistance, including visa services, accommodation advice, interpreter services and counselling,” Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in a statement.
Abbott said the Australian government “won’t rest until we’ve done everything we reasonably can to get those families and to get the wider community of the world a little more peace and a little more insight into exactly what happened”.
International protocols mean Malaysia is officially in charge of the search. Last week, Australia issued a set of guidelines to all parties in the search, giving Malaysia authority over the investigation of any debris conducted on Australian territory.
But Abbott made clear that Houston was available “to oversee the overall search and investigation effort” if asked.
In 2009, Houston helped ease months of tense diplomatic ties between Canberra and Beijing when he hosted talks with General Chen Bingde, chief of general staff for the PLA.
Relations between Australia and China had been soured by the arrest in China of an Australian mining executive for commercial espionage, and by the granting of an Australian visa to an exiled Uygur leader.
Agence France-Presse and Reuters