SYDNEY-Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop arrived in New York on Monday to push for a tough United Nations resolution calling for immediate access to the MH17 crash site and an independent international investigation into the missile strike that brought down the Malaysian Airlines flight.
Bishop said in a media statement she hoped a resolution would be passed as soon as possible with the United Nations Security Council meeting on Monday in New York.
"I say to the separatists and the Russian government that backs them, that there are 298 bodies on that site. Their families, their loved ones want them home now," she said in a statement.
"This is not a time to use bodies as hostages or pawns in a Ukrainian-Russian conflict."
She said the United Nations is an appropriate forum to express global outrage at an attack that had affected so many nations.
"Australia has a great deal at stake here because many Australians were on that flight," Bishop said.
"They have been murdered and the Australian government will not rest until we are able to bring the bodies home to the Australian families who are waiting for them, and will not rest until an independent investigation is established that is impartial and thorough and competent and able to determine who is responsible for this and they are brought to justice."
Bishop arrived in Washington DC on Sunday and received detailed briefings from U.S. intelligence officials at the residence of Australian Ambassador Kim Beazley.
She said those meetings confirmed that "the possibilities as to what caused this crash have narrowed".
"What we do know is that MH17 was brought down by a missile in eastern Ukraine in territory held by the Russian-backed rebels," Bishop said. "The details should be the subject of an international investigation."
She said separatists had restricted access to the site, moved bodies and tampered with evidence.
During a stopover in Tokyo, Bishop said she called some of the families of Australians who had been on the flight.
"I can't overstate how determined the Australian government is to support the families."
"Everything I'm doing in the United Sates is with their interests in mind. Their stories were heartbreaking. The loss of their loved ones is devastating to them."
Bishop told Sky News on Monday she expected Russia to support the UN resolution.
She said Australia was seeking the "strongest possible resolution of the United Nations Security Council to secure the site of the air crash so that the bodies ... killed on this flight can be identified, retrieved and repatriated back to Australia".
Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Monday he had spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the MH17 investigation and heard "all the right things".
The Kremlin's website also confirmed the conversation between Putin and Abbott, with the Russian president "expressing his sincere condolences on the death of Australian citizens in the crash of an airliner".
The website statement added that Russia had taken steps to promote an international investigation into the circumstances of the crash and "both sides stressed the importance to the completion of the investigation to avoid politicized statements in connection with the tragedy