Ottawa is rejecting Iran’s position that dual nationals on downed Flight 752 are Iranian citizens only, vowing to continue to fight for a thorough investigation into the tragedy and for compensation for the families of the Canadian victims.
On Monday, a spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry said the country defines the passengers with dual nationalities as Iranians, and no other country has any influence over Iran’s decisions regarding their deaths and the crash investigation.
Later in day, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne responded by saying his government will continue to advocate for the rights of the families of the 57 Canadians who were on the flight, regardless of whether they held another citizenship.
Mr. Champagne said he clearly stated Canada’s position on the issue of dual nationals in a meeting with his Iranian counterpart last week, and that his government will not budge.
“I have been very clear and we will insist at every venue, all of the time and every time, that a Canadian is a Canadian,” Mr. Champagne said in an interview after a cabinet meeting in Winnipeg. “We will be forceful in defending every single Canadian who is a victim of this horrific tragedy.”
On Monday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in a televised weekly news conference that the country does not recognize dual nationals.
“We have informed Canada that Tehran considers dual nationals who were killed in the plane crash as Iranian citizens. … Iran is mourning their deaths,” Mr. Mousavi said.
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.
The Canadian government has been putting pressure on Iran on a number of fronts, including repeated calls for the aircraft’s flight recorders to be analyzed in Ukraine or France.
On Sunday, the Iranian official leading the investigation appeared to backtrack on an earlier statement that the black boxes would be sent to Ukraine. Hassan Rezaeifar was quoted 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.”
Canada and other countries who lost citizens in the crash said on Monday that Iran was losing precious time by keeping the flight recorders out of the hands of international investigators.
“We have called on Iran, again, to proceed rapidly,” Mr. Champagne said. “The world wants to know where those black boxes are going, they want to know about the content and to have an international team present when this is done.”
A preliminary report released by Iran’s National Aviation Authority on Monday said the country needs technical assistance from France and United States to analyze data from the Ukrainian jetliner.
The flight recorders sustained physical damage, although the memory is intact, the report said.
A request for technical help has been sent to the Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety in France and the National Transportation Safety Board in the United States, but they have not responded positively to the request, it said.
The report says Canada, Sweden, the U.S., France, Britain and Ukraine are asking to be part of the investigative process rather than being observers.
Mr. Champagne said the fact that Iran admitted to shooting down the aircraft means it must take its responsibilities seriously.
“There are consequences for admitting that, one of which is to ensure the international community, and particularly the countries that represent the families of victims and loved ones, to provide a full account of the black box and to do that transparently,” he said. “Days are going by and the international community is waiting.”
Canada’s Transportation Safety Board said in a statement on Sunday 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.
With reports from Reuters and The Canadian Press