Ottawa is continuing to exhort Iran to turn over the flight recorders for Flight 752 to Ukrainian or French authorities amid concerns that Tehran is not fully collaborating with the international investigation into the downing of the civilian aircraft.
Speaking during a three-day federal cabinet retreat in Winnipeg, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said he remains in contact with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to push for full co-operation with multilateral efforts to get to the bottom of the tragedy. Mr. Champagne met with his Iranian counterpart on Friday in Oman.
“We expect Iran to proceed with transparency and we demand from Iran that the black boxes be sent to Kyiv or Paris,” Mr. Champagne told reporters on Sunday. “There was news coverage this morning that would indicate otherwise so I contacted the Iranian Foreign Minister this morning to reiterate the demand that was formulated a few days ago.”
Mr. Champagne’s comments came after news reports that the Iranian official leading the investigation appeared to be backtracking on an earlier statement that the black boxes would be sent to Ukraine. Hassan Rezaeifar was quoted Sunday by the state-run IRNA news agency as saying “the flight recorders from the Ukrainian Boeing are in Iranian hands and we have no plans to send them out.”
He added that Iran is working to recover the data and cabin recordings, and that it may send the flight recorders to Ukraine or France. “But as of yet, we have made no decision.”
Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was shot down on Jan. 8, hours after Iran had fired several volleys of ballistic missiles at U.S. military bases in Iraq in response to the U.S. assassination of a senior Iranian commander. All 176 people on board died, including 57 Canadians and 29 foreigners who were permanent residents of Canada.
Canada’s Transportation Safety Board said in a statement that it is ready to send investigators to any location where the aircraft recorders will be downloaded and analyzed, adding that there are still “no firm plans” for the process to take place.
“It is our understanding that the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder – often referred to as ‘black’ boxes – are still in Iran,” the TSB said.
Investigators from the organization have left Iran after six days in the country. TSB investigators are heading to Ukraine this week to continue their work with their counterparts from the National Bureau of Air Accidents Investigation. According to the TSB, there is a possibility that Iran’s lead investigator will also travel to Ukraine.
On Thursday, countries other than Iran that lost citizens in the Flight 752 crash gathered in London and issued a statement urging Tehran to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the disaster and offer to deliver “closure, accountability, transparency and justice for the families and loved ones of all the victims." The countries included Canada, Britain, Afghanistan, Sweden and Ukraine.
On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that Flight 752’s recorders are significantly damaged and Iran doesn’t have the technical capacity to analyze them quickly. Mr. Trudeau said that so far the “people we’re engaging with in Iran have been aligned” with the wishes of Canada and other countries for a full investigation.
Mr. Champagne said the Canadian government is working with the families of the victims, including those who are seeking to bring back their remains to Canada.
“In all cases, we should respect the wishes of the family,” he said. “That wish has already been expressed for most of the families, so in some cases, burials [in Iran] are taking place, in some other cases, repatriations are taking place.”
With reports from Steven Chase and The Canadian Press