Five countries whose citizens were killed when Iran accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet demanded on Jan. 16 that Tehran pay compensation to the victims’ families and accept “full responsibility,” warning that the world is watching.
In a statement issued Thursday following a meeting in London, the governments of Canada, Sweden, the UK, Afghanistan, and Ukraine urged Iran to conduct a “thorough, independent and transparent international investigation.”
The countries’ foreign ministers also urged Iran to allow a criminal probe and “impartial” judicial proceedings against the individuals found responsible for shooting down the airliner with ballistic missiles.
All 176 people on board Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 were killed just after takeoff from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport on Jan. 8. Those killed included 11 Ukrainians, 57 Canadians (including many Iranians with dual citizenship), 17 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans, and four Britons.
Speaking after a meeting with officials at the Canadian High Commission, Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said the five countries wished to “… pursue closure, accountability, transparency and justice,” for the crash victims.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko, Swedish Foreign Affairs Minister Ann Linde, Afghan Acting Foreign Minister Idrees Zaman, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, and UK Middle East Minister Andrew Murrison were in attendance. They lit candles at a vigil to commemorate the victims before the meeting.
After initially claiming the plane crashed due to a technical fault, Iran over the weekend admitted that its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard shot down the plane by accident, but has denied a cover-up. The news triggered widespread protests in Tehran and elsewhere.
Foreign Minister Javad Zarif wrote that “human error at time of crisis caused by United States adventurism led to disaster … our profound regrets, apologies, and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims, and to other affected nations.”
President Hassan Rouhani meanwhile wrote that following an “internal investigation,” Iran fired missiles due to “human error.”
Champagne said it was a “good first step” that Iran had accepted responsibility.
“From that admission obviously flow consequences,” he added, including the need to pay compensation for the victims’ families.
“The eyes of the international community are on Iran today. I think that Iran has a choice, and the world is watching,” Champagne warned when asked about what pressure could be applied if Iran did not cooperate.
Ukraine, Canada, the United States, and France have been invited by Iran to take part in the crash investigation, but it is not yet clear whether the nations will be granted full access from Iran or whether it will share all key details.
Iran shot down the plane as its forces were on alert for possible United States retaliation after Iran launched ballistic missiles on two military bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq. No one was hurt in that attack, which was carried out in response to the killing of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in a United States airstrike in Baghdad.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.