Iran urges world not to turn downing of passenger plane into a ‘political’ issue
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Iran urges world not to turn downing of passenger plane into a ‘political’ issue

Tehran ‘surprised’ by criticism of probe by countries whose citizens were among 176 killed when missiles hit Ukraine airliner, insists it is engaging in ‘far-reaching cooperation’

In this May 28, 2019 photo, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi speaks at a press conference in Tehran, Iran (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
In this May 28, 2019 photo, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi speaks at a press conference in Tehran, Iran (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iran on Friday called on the international community not to turn its shoot-down of a passenger jet into a “political” matter, and expressed “surprise” at criticism of its handling of the affair, as it faced intense pressure for transparency in the investigation of the incident that killed 176 people last week.

“We call on all sides not to make humanitarian issues, especially this tragic incident, an excuse for political condemnation,” foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi was quoted as saying by the semi-official ISNA news agency.

Mousavi said Iran had engaged in “far-reaching cooperation” with countries whose citizens were killed in the crash.

He expressed “surprise” at criticism made during a meeting of five countries whose citizens were victims of the incident.

In a joint statement after Thursday’s talks in London, Canada, Ukraine, Sweden, Afghanistan and Britain demanded “full and unhindered access” for foreign officials to and within Iran and “a thorough, independent and transparent international investigation.”

Iran should “assume full responsibility for the downing of flight PS752 and [recognize] its duties towards the families of the victims and other parties — including compensation.”

(L-R) Afghan Acting Foreign Minister Idrees Zaman, Britain’s Minister of State for International Development and the Middle East Andrew Murrison, Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Vadym Prystaiko and Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs Ann Linde attend a press conference after a meeting of the International Coordination and Response Group to discuss the shooting down of an Ukrainian plane in Iran, at the High Commission of Canada in London, on January 16, 2020. (Tolga AKMEN / AFP)

In addition, it called for those responsible to be held to account in an independent criminal investigation and trial in line with international standards of due process and human rights.

Mousavi said “technical cooperation and investigations are ongoing with the coordination of all parties, and such cooperation is as extensive as possible in accordance with law and regulations.”

Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said at the meeting:

“We are here to pursue closure, accountability, transparency and justice” for the victims. “Families want answers, the international community wants answers, the world is waiting for answers and we will not rest until we get them.”

He said Iran had accepted responsibility, but only a full investigation would reveal the “exact cause” and who was responsible.

Mousavi responded: “It is strange… that the Canadian foreign minister reads such a statement one day after doing the preliminary work and continuing to identify almost all the bodies and other collaborations and calls for more consular access on the first day of the process.”

Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Francois-Philippe Champagne addresses a press conference after a meeting of the International Coordination and Response Group to discuss the shooting down of an Ukrainian plane in Iran, at the High Commission of Canada in London, on January 16, 2020. (Tolga AKMEN / AFP)

He added: “It is unclear at this time what the motives for these comments and claims are.”

All 176 people aboard the Ukraine International Airlines died when it was brought down by ballistic missiles shortly after taking off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport on January 8.

The victims included 57 Canadian citizens as well as 11 Ukrainians, 17 people from Sweden, four Afghans and four British citizens, as well as Iranians.

Iran initially blamed a technical fault before acknowledging in the face of mounting evidence that its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard had accidentally brought down the jetliner.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called for a “comprehensive, transparent and independent international investigation” of the crash.

Canada — which doesn’t have an embassy in Iran — has demanded official status in the investigation. Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau said Wednesday that two Canadian investigators were in Iran as part of an international team and had good co-operation, but Garneau wants their participation in the probe formalized.

Garneau said the plane’s voice and flight data recorders are in Iranian hands, but another two Canadian investigators are ready to go wherever and whenever they are examined.

Candles flicker in front of the names of the victims of the Ukrainian plane shot down in Iran before a meeting of the International Coordination and Response Group, at the High Commission of Canada in London, on January 16, 2020. (Tolga Akmen / AFP)

The downing of the plane came amid heightened tensions between Iran and the United States over the killing of Revolutionary Guard commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani in a US drone strike. Iran fired missiles at Iraqi bases housing US troops in retaliation for his death.

American allies have avoided blaming the Trump administration, but Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the crash victims would be alive today if tensions had not escalated in the region.

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