SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia on Saturday reiterated its commitment to finding answers for the families of those on board missing flight MH370, with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop hailing the "first positive sign" that part of the plane has been found.
A wing part that washed up on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion was being flown to Paris for analysis in what could be the first breakthrough in a case that has baffled aviation experts for 16 months.
Bishop said she was hopeful it could provide insight into what happened to the Malaysia Airlines flight, which disappeared on March 8 last year en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.
"Well, this piece of wreckage is being analysed by experts in France. It's believed to be part of a Boeing 777. That is the same kind of aircraft that was MH370," she said.
"So, in a sense, this is the first positive sign that we have located part of that plane." Australia has been leading the hunt for the plane with satellite and other data pointing it to coming down in the southern Indian Ocean.
Ships have been scouring more than 50,000 sq km of deep ocean floor for evidence, although none has so far been found. Authorities plan to search a total of 120,000 sq m.
Bishop said Australia remained determined to locate the main debris field.
"Australia is in charge of that search, it's an international effort," she said.
"Of course, experts will have to analyse if this is a piece of MH370, the current drifts and how it ended up there and what does that mean for the broader search question.
"But Australia is still committed to assisting and doing whatever we can so that we can locate MH370 and provide answers for the families of the 239 people onboard that flight," she added.
On Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said Australia was "confident that we're searching in the right place".
"And if in fact the plane parts found on Reunion Island are linked to MH370, that would rather strengthen the case that we are in the right area," he added, with the debris find consistent with currents from the area being scoured.
But Truss also cautioned that while the discovery "could be a very important piece of evidence" if it was linked to MH370, using reverse modelling to determine more precisely where the debris may have drifted from was "almost impossible".