On Friday, January 17, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with his Canadian counterpart François-Philippe Champagne to “discuss consular, technical and legal cooperation” among the nations affected by the tragedy of the Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752, which was shot down on January 8 by an Iranian missile, killing all 176 passengers and crew onboard. Reporting on the meeting, Zarif tweeted: “Politicization of this tragedy must be rejected. Focus on victims’ families.”
Iran and Canada do not have diplomatic relations, so the meeting took place in Muscat, the capital of the Sultanate of Oman, which arranged the talks in an intermediary capacity. Iran and Canada broke diplomatic relations eight years ago, and since Canada has revoked the diplomatic immunity of the Islamic Republic, diplomatic relations have not resumed since.
In September 2019 Canada became the second country to confiscate some properties belonging to the Islamic Republic as a means of compensating families of the victims of terrorist actions in the Middle East, including operations carried out by Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah, for which Canadian courts found Iran responsible.
After the shooting down of the Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 by Revolutionary Guards’ missiles over Tehran and the death of dozens of Canadian-Iranian dual nationals in the disaster, it was the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who first rejected the claim that the plane had crashed due to technical problems. When the silence of the Islamic Republic’s officials continued, he revealed that the plane had been brought down by an Iranian missile.
Following this assertion by Trudeau on January 9, the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces and the Revolutionary Guards officially took responsibility for shooting down the plane. Canada then initiated a meeting on January 16 in London between the foreign ministers from five nations that had lost citizens in the crash — Afghanistan, the United Kingdom, Canada, Sweden and Ukraine — who demanded "full cooperation" from Iran in a transparent international inquiry into the crash.
Iran’s Harassment vs. Canada’s Helping Hand
While the Islamic Republic is desperately trying to control public opinion and its crisis of confidence by harassing the families of crash victims, and even by interfering in mourning and burial ceremonies and obstructing them, Trudeau has announced that it will compensate families of victims who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Canada also announced that it would act to facilitate the issue of visas and other consular services for the families and promised to provide them with psychiatric treatment.
Because there are no diplomatic relations between the two countries, there is no Canadian embassy in Tehran. As a result, the provision of consular services to the families of the victims is slow and problematic. So, with Oman as the intermediary, the foreign ministers of Iran and Canada met in Oman to facilitate these services in Iran.
In his tweet, Zarif wrote that the tragedy must not be politicized, but the fact is that without Canada’s insistence on finding out the truth, it is likely that the Islamic Republic would still be dragging its feet in announcing the real cause of the crash of the ill-fated Ukrainian flight.
Not only does the Islamic Republic not recognize dual nationality of its citizens, in recent years it has used dual nationality as an excuse to systematically pressure, harass and prosecute dual nationals, using them as hostages to resolve its diplomatic problems with other countries. Despite this shameful policy, Canada has mobilized its national resources to care for the families of its citizens or permanent residents who were killed in the plane crash and its prime minister has traveled from town to town to meet with the families and to commiserate with them.
Officials of the Islamic Republic, who at first stayed silent about the cause of the crash, have seized the bodies of the victims and, in many cases, have buried them without allowing the families to be present. Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ Aerospace Force, which was responsible for the shooting down of Flight 752, visited the home of one of the victims’ families, during which he treated the family to a talk about the importance of the Guards’ missile attack on American bases in Iraq a few hours before the plane over the Iranian capital was shot down. In addition, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei expressed sympathy for the families — but then announced his “gratitude” to the Revolutionary Guards for accepting responsibility for shooting down the plane.
In such an atmosphere, it would appear that Zarif’s call to reject the “politicization of this tragedy” is really addressed to the officials of the Islamic Republic. In Hamadan, during the burial of a victim of the plane crash, the Revolutionary Guards prevented the victim’s family from getting close to the grave, and one of the agents who stopped a grieving mother from crossing the fence told her: “We will do whatever you say.” The distraught and helpless mother answered: “Do nothing! Just leave us alone” [Persian link].
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Who Will Khamenei Blame for the Plane Crash?, 11 January 2020
Guards’ Recklessness Caused the Plane Crash, 11 January 2020