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Iran plane crash: Canada hosting response group meeting on next steps in probe

Click to play video 'Canada’s TSB says investigation about finding out why Iran plane crash happened, not assigning blame' Canada’s TSB says investigation about finding out why Iran plane crash happened, not assigning blame
WATCH: Canada's TSB says investigation about finding out why Iran plane crash happened, not assigning blame – Jan 13, 2020

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne will convene a meeting of the International Coordination and Response Group at Canada’s high commission in London, U.K., into the shooting down of a civilian aircraft by Iran’s military last week.

The meeting is scheduled to take place Thursday at Canada House.

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Canada, Ukraine, Sweden, Afghanistan and the United Kingdom are the members of that group, formed in the aftermath of the devastating crash that killed 176 people last week when a Ukrainian aircraft leaving Tehran’s international airport was struck by a missile fired by the Iranian military.

The meeting between the five countries will discuss the “need for a thorough investigation and how to secure full cooperation from Iranian authorities to achieve closure” as well as accountability and compensation for those who lost loved ones in the crash, according to a statement Monday afternoon by Global Affairs Canada.

Click to play video 'Tensions remain high between U.S.-Iran as thousands protest own government in Iran' Tensions remain high between U.S.-Iran as thousands protest own government in Iran
Tensions remain high between U.S.-Iran as thousands protest own government in Iran – Jan 13, 2020

“The member countries of the International Coordination and Response Group for families of victims of Flight PS752 stand united in this tragedy,” Champagne said in the statement.

“Together, we will continue to expect and demand full cooperation and accountability from Iranian authorities.”

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READ MORE: Video appears to show Iran police shoot at demonstrators protesting plane shootdown

Iran initially denied media reports that it had shot down the passenger plane.

It later admitted responsibility, saying its military had mistaken the plane for a “hostile” target during a period of heightened tensions.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada provided an update on the crash investigation on Monday. TSB chair Kathy Fox told reporters TSB has confirmed its role as an expert and accepted Iran’s invitation to attend the accident site as entitled in Annex 13 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation.

Two TSB air accident investigators left Canada Friday evening and met up with members of the Canadian consular team in Turkey over the weekend, she said.

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Fox emphasized that although Iran’s aviation bureau has the right to lead the investigation, they are responsible to communicate the updates of the investigation.

“We will speak up if we feel those answers aren’t coming” from Iranian aviation authorities, said Fox.

Natacha Van Themsche, the TSB’s director of investigations (air) who was also at the press conference, said what happened was clear, but a focus of the TSB investigators will be to understand why the accident happened in the first place and try to understand why the air space had remained open. 

READ MORE: ‘Furious’ Trudeau says Iran must take full responsibility for shooting down plane

The firing of that missile came just hours after Iran had launched roughly two dozen ballistic missiles at coalition military bases in Iraq in response to the decision by U.S. President Donald Trump on Jan. 3 to target and kill by drone strike Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

Soleimani was the architect of Iran’s campaign to expand its influence across the Middle East and the second most senior member of the Iranian regime.

His killing prompted waves of protests in Iraq and Iran against the U.S.

But within days, those turned into protests against the regime after it admitted it had shot down the plane.

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Click to play video 'Canadian-American relations as tensions rise in the Middle East' Canadian-American relations as tensions rise in the Middle East
Canadian-American relations as tensions rise in the Middle East – Jan 13, 2020

Iranian forces have reportedly begun using live ammunition and tear gas to break up those protests.

Of the 176 killed, roughly 57 were Canadian and more than 80 were Iranian.

There are now renewed calls for the Canadian government to list Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist entity, expanding on the existing listing of the Quds Force, which is a branch of that same Iranian military.

Both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Champagne have held rare direct communications with their Iranian counterparts over the past week, stressing the need for a credible investigation into the incident. Those calls have been bolstered through the international response group.

— With files from Global News’ Mike Le Couteur and Emerald Bensadoun.