The federal government says it’s considering offering some short-term financial support to the families of the Flight 752 victims, as Canada and four other countries affected by the disaster are set to meet in London Thursday to form a plan to deal with Iran.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said he hopes the five countries will agree to form a joint investigative team that will operate in parallel with the Iranian-led investigation on the ground in Tehran. The foreign ministers from Canada, Ukraine, Britain, Sweden and Afghanistan will also discuss possible legal options, as well as the feasibility of passing a resolution condemning Iran at the United Nations Security Council.
Ottawa says the possible assistance it could provide in the interim would help families cope with expenses stemming from the tragedy. The government ultimately expects Iran to pay compensation to the families, but realizes that a full investigation could take time to determine precisely what happened.
Omar Alghabra, parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, said interim compensation is one measure being mulled and “a decision will be made in short order.”
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Interim compensation would leave Ottawa responsible for ensuring Iran fully repaid what monies were already distributed by Canada.
Fifty-seven Canadians perished on Jan. 8 when their Ukraine International Airlines flight was shot down by the Iranian military.
Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau said Canada expects Iran will one day compensate the families and loved ones of the victims – after a probe has determined what exactly transpired.
Separately, Mr. Garneau announced Canada will waive, or reimburse, all visa and immigration-related fees for people affected by the Flight 752 disaster. He said Canada is expediting requests for visas and other required travel documents for the victims’ families and loved ones.
Mr. Garneau said Thursday’s meeting of foreign ministers from countries that lost citizens in the disaster will help “achieve consensus” on what to request of Iran in terms of a complete investigation of what happened.
“The purpose of this meeting is to establish very, very clearly how we will work together internationally to ensure that we answer all of the questions that have to be answered here, and that we then speak with the Iranians to let them know exactly what has to happen.”
In an interview at the Foreign Ministry headquarters in Kyiv, Mr. Prystaiko said he hopes the meeting will help forge a united front among the affected countries.
“We hope that we will be able to find out what is the best mechanism, how we can keep Iran accountable and how we can resolve all the issues pending, including the compensation of the families."
One key, he said, was ensuring Iran investigated and prosecuted not only the soldiers who shot down the plane, but anyone above them in the command chain who was involved in making the decision.
Iran, he said, had the right to take the lead on the investigation, since the disaster occurred on its territory. However, he pointed out that Ukraine – in a similar case six years ago – had ceded leadership of that investigation to the Netherlands (the country that lost the most citizens on the flight) to ensure the process was seen as transparent.
That probe found that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 had been destroyed by a Russian anti-aircraft missile, fired from territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country.
Mr. Prystaiko said Iran thus far seems unwilling to allow another country to take the lead on the Flight 752 investigation, meaning it was important that the other five countries open their own probe.
So far, Iran has refused to allow the black boxes – which contain critical flight data, as well as recordings of cockpit conversations – to be taken out of the country for analysis. While Tehran had recently signalled that it was willing to send the black boxes to Kyiv, Mr. Prystaiko said it was now unclear whether that would happen.
Mr. Prystaiko said Iran appeared intent on making sure Boeing, the American company that manufactured the 737 plane, was not involved in the investigation. A French company designed the plane’s engine.
Flight 752 was shot down hours after Iran had fired several volleys of ballistic missiles at U.S. military targets in Iraq, in response to the U.S. assassination of a senior Iranian commander.
Iranian anti-aircraft defences were on high alert for possible American retaliation on the morning of Jan. 8, and Iran’s military has said it shot at Flight 752 because it was mistaken for an incoming cruise missile.
Cracks seemed to appear within the Iranian regime on Wednesday, with President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif calling for more accountability from the country’s military.
Separately, Mr. Zarif said that he and Mr. Rouhani – who initially stated a mechanical failure on board Flight 752 had caused the disaster – had been among those who were kept in the dark for three days about the real cause before the military admitted what had happened late on Jan. 10.
New video footage on Tuesday appears to show Flight 752 being struck by two missiles, fired 23 seconds apart, just after it took off from Imam Khomeini International Airport.
Mr. Prystaiko said the origins of the new video were not clear. “This video which is surfacing [Tuesday] is showing that there are different processes within the Iranian system, and factual information is starting to come out.”