EDITOR’S NOTE: On Jan. 10, the Canadian government updated the number of Canadians killed in the Jan. 8 Ukraine International Airlines crash in Iran from 63 to 57.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne had a rare phone call with his Iranian counterpart overnight stressing the need for Canada to be involved in the probe into what caused a devastating plane crash early Wednesday morning in Tehran.
All 176 passengers were killed when a Ukrainian aircraft caught fire and crashed shortly after taking off from the Iranian capital.
Of those, at least 63 victims were Canadians and 82 were Iranian.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday that at least 138 of the passengers were on their way to Canada via connecting flights.
Canada severed diplomatic ties with Iran in 2012 and relations between the two countries have been severely limited since, with Italy acting as a special power representing Canadian interests in Iran and Switzerland acting in the same role for Iran in Canada.
But the crash has forced rare direct conversations between Canadian and Iranian officials.
Global Affairs Canada released on Thursday morning a summary of a phone call that took place on Wednesday night between Champagne and Mohammed Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign affairs minister, which says the two exchanged condolences for the crash victims from both their countries.
“Minister Champagne stressed the need for Canadian officials to be quickly granted access to Iran to provide consular services, help with identification of the deceased and take part in the investigation of the crash,” the readout states.
“Minister Champagne said that Canada and Canadians have many questions which will need to be answered.”
Canadian officials have been pushing for experts from this country to be involved in the investigation and black box data analysis, which requires specialized equipment and skill that only a few countries — including Canada — have.
Trudeau told reporters in a press conference on Thursday: “I am willing to talk to anyone to get answers.”
Iran indicated in a statement posted on Thursday morning that it had invited Canadian officials to participate but did not specify in what capacity that could be.
Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization is leading the investigation into the cause of the crash but has refused to hand over the black boxes to Boeing, the manufacturer of the aircraft, or the United States.
Boeing is an American firm and the country has been on the brink of war with Iran since U.S. President Donald Trump last week ordered the targeted killing by drone strike of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani while he was in Iraq.
Soleimani was the architect of Iran’s strategy to expand its influence across the Middle East and the second most senior member of the Iranian regime.
That targeted killing prompted Iran to fire close to two dozen ballistic missiles at coalition military bases in Iraq this week.
Champagne raised those strikes in the phone call, the readout states.
“Minister Champagne also condemned Iranian strikes targeting bases in Iraq where Coalition forces, including Canadians, are stationed.”
Iran has threatened further retaliation.