Australia, China and Malaysia were to hold trilateral talks on Monday on the future course of action in the search for MH370, as weeks of extensive scouring has failed to find the final resting place of the plane.
The meeting in Canberra follows a decision this week to scale back the costly search operation, including ending the aerial search for the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200, in the southern Indian Ocean that has so far turned up no wreckage.
The discussions in the meeting would be focused on how the search mission should proceed, media reports said.
“That’s a very important meeting because it will formalise the way ahead to ensure that this search continues with urgency and doesn’t stop at any stage,” Australian search coordinator Air Chief Marshal (retd) Angus Houston said on Friday.
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“I am here to do some preliminary consultations to enable the trilateral Ministers’ meeting in Canberra on Monday,” he said.
“We’ve been discussing some of the challenges involved with deep water search and of course, as Prime Minister Abbott mentioned in his announcement last Monday, the search will take probably something in the order of eight months, maybe eight to 12 months if we have bad weather or other issues,” he said.
Houston expressed confidence that with an effective search they will eventually find the aircraft. Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has said he would attend the meeting.
A robotic mini-submarine is continuing to scan the Indian Ocean floor with still no sign of the plane’s debris.
Malaysia has released a preliminary report on the mysterious disappearance of the plane, according to which Air traffic controllers failed to notice for 17 minutes that the ill-fated jet had gone off the radar and did not activate a rescue operation for nearly four hours.
The Beijing-bound plane – carrying 239 people, including five Indians, an Indo-Canadian and 154 Chinese nationals – had mysteriously vanished on March 8 after taking off from Kuala Lumpur.
The mystery of the missing plane continues to baffle aviation and security authorities who have so far not succeeded in tracking the aircraft despite deploying hi-tech radar and other gadgets.
The search for the jet has been exhausting and expensive with estimates suggesting it may cost nearly USD 60 million.