Liberal MP Craig Kelly has offered an “unreserved apology” to the families of MH17 victims for suggesting the world should overlook the atrocity, but claims his comments were taken out of context.
A day after the fourth anniversary of the massacre, Mr Kelly said Russian involvement should be “slightly looked over” in order to improve world relations.
“We can’t fix things that happened in the past. We’ve got to make sure that the relationships between the Russia and the US going forward are the best they can possibly be,” Mr Kelly told Sky News on Wednesday.
The comments sparked calls from Labor leader Bill Shorten for Mr Kelly to apologise to victim’s families, while the son of a couple killed in the atrocity told the MP “to take a good look at himself”.
Almost 300 people, including 38 Australians, were killed in 2014 when a Russian-made missile shot down their Malaysian Airlines flight over Ukraine.
The Sydney MP spoke to ABC radio on Thursday morning, and offered to “unreservedly apologise for any harm my comments have caused”.
“I have no hesitation whatsoever in saying Russia should be fully condemned for their involvement … and I fully agree that they should be held to account for the tragic loss of innocent lives,” he said.
“I have the greatest sympathy for everyone who had family and friends on that flight.”
But he claimed Labor had taken his remarks out of context, and had caused further distress to victims.
“The reality is that as much as it all galls us, and as much as I myself would like to shirtfront President Putin … the reality of the realpolitick of the world is that we need the US and we need Russia, both the presidents of those nations, to have a good working relationship,” he said.
“That doesn’t mean you forgive and forget anything the Russians did.”
In his interview with Sky News, Mr Kelly also responded to the father of three children who were killed in the incident, telling him nothing would bring them back.
Anthony Maslin, whose children Mo, Evie and Otis were on MH17, posted an open letter on Facebook on Tuesday criticising US President Donald Trump for not holding his Russian counterpart accountable for the killing.
Meryn O’Brien, whose 25-year-old son Jack was on MH17, told ABC TV Mr Kelly’s comments were “beyond the pale” but accepted his apology.
An angry Paul Guard lost his parents Jill and Roger in the disaster.
“Craig Kelly needs to take a good look at himself, but also just bear in mind that there are many Australians, hundreds of Australians who have been directly affected by this tragedy, and we certainly do want people to keep on putting pressure on Russia to own up to their own role in this,” he told ABC Radio.
Mr Shorten said there were no excuses for the remarks.
“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.