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MH370: Malaysia, Australia spar over search bill

world Updated: Jun 14, 2014 02:17 IST
MH370 airlines

Fifty-fifty, a Malaysian official said of how his country and Australia will split the bill for the increasingly massive search for the missing jetliner. Not so fast, an Australian official responded.

Malaysia and Australia discussed cost-sharing this week in Canberra, but Australian transport minister Warren Truss declined to say Friday whether the country was even considering an even split of the bill for a search that will take months, if not years, and cost tens of millions of dollars at a minimum.

“I don’t want to give any indication as to where it’s likely to end up,” Truss told The Associated Press. “We are talking about this with the Malaysians and other countries who have got a key interest.”

The government expects to spend $84 million on the search by July 2015. But the actual cost to Australia will depend on how quickly the plane can be found and how much other countries are willing to contribute. And a legal expert said Australia’s obligations are murky because of the unprecedented nature of the plane’s disappearance.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 veered off course during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8 and is believed to have crashed into the Indian Ocean far off the west Australian coast. The search area has changed several times, but no sign of the aircraft, or the 239 people aboard, has been found.

Countries are continuing to negotiate on how to fund the next phase of the sonar search of almost 56,000 square kilometers of seabed beneath water up to 7 kilometers deep.

Countries involved in the search, including Malaysia, Australia, the US, China, Japan, Britain, South Korea and New Zealand, have carried their own costs to date. But Malaysian government lawmaker Jailani Johari told reporters in Kuala Lumpur this week that future costs “will be shared 50-50” between Malaysia and Australia.