Malaysia has signed a deal with Australia to strengthen their collaboration for searching the ill-fated Malaysian flight MH370, which disappeared midair over five months ago with 237 people aboard.
Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai, who is leading the Malaysian delegation to Canberra, signed the Memorandum of Understanding with Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss.
"The signing is to further solidify our collaboration and commitment to find the aircraft," Liow said.
He stressed that MH370 remained a top priority for the Malaysia.
"Continuing with the search remains our focus. We have maintained our resolve in searching for the aircraft," he said.
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which was carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members, left the KL International Airport at 12. 41 am on March 8 and disappeared from radar screens about an hour later over the South China Sea.
It was to have arrived in Beijing at 6.30 am on the same day. A massive multinational search was launched for searching the aircraft, first in the South China Sea and then along two corridors.
Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak announced on March 24 that Flight MH370 "ended in the southern Indian Ocean".
Top senior ministers from Australia, Malaysia and China met today in Canberra and discussed progress in the search for the MH370 aircraft while reaffirming their commitment to find the lost jet.
Truss chaired the meeting with Liow and Chinese Vice Minister of Transport He Jianzhong.
During the meeting, the three leaders acknowledged and expressed their sincere appreciation to the nations that have provided assets and assistance for the search for missing Malaysia Airlines over the past five months.
However, they remained cautiously optimistic that the missing jet will be found.
It was acknowledged that Australia had announced the successful tenderer of deep-sea search on August 6 and reaffirmed that deep-sea search is expected to commence in September.
The meeting was provided with presentations on how the bathymetry survey data is being analysed and outcomes till date, the status of planning for the deep-sea search aspects including utilisation of the range of scanning and remote overwater vehicles, ongoing analysis and refinements of the priority search area.
Bathymetry is the study of underwater depth of lake or ocean floors.
The meeting was briefed on the status of the bathymetry work that commenced in May using two vessels—the Zhu Kezhen provided by China and the Fugro Equator which is a vessel contracted by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.
It was noted that till date over 87,000 square kilometres of the sea floor in the 1.1 million square kilometres, wide search area, have been surveyed.
Analysis of the bathymetric data was currently being used to identify targets for the deep-sea search.
Leaders were also provided with the latest planning information for the deep-sea search.
Recognising that the search remained a highly complex operation, the meeting received detailed briefing on the ongoing refinement of the search area.
The priority area will continue to be focused on the seventh arc in the southern Indian Ocean.
The ministers were updated on the status of the investigation and noted that the Investigation Team has completed Stage 1 of the investigation which involved the collection and gathering of all factual information and records, and interviews with all relevant individuals and agencies.
Currently the Investigation Team is progressing into Stage 2 which includes analysis of all the data and information received.