The announcement could signal the end to all hope of solving aviation’s greatest mystery.
“In the absence of new evidence, Malaysia, Australia and China have collectively decided to suspend the search upon completion of the 120,000 square kilometre (46,332 square mile) search area,” Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said after a meeting with his Australian and Chinese counterparts.
He said suspension of the search does not mean an end to it.
“Should credible new information emerge which can be used to identify the specific location of the aircraft, consideration will be given in determining next steps,” he said, reading out a joint statement.
But it was clear that searchers have given up hope of finding the plane with less than 10,000 square kilometres (3,800 square miles) left to be searched.
In their statement, the ministers acknowledged that “the likelihood of finding the aircraft is fading”.
The Boeing 777 vanished more than two years ago while on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8 2014. It is believed to have turned back and dropped into the Indian Ocean west of Australia, where the search has been concentrated.
Mr Liow said the current search is being hampered by bad weather and damaged equipment, but still it would end by December.