Iran must accept it does not have the capability to analyze flight recorders from the plane it shot down with a missile last month, says Canada’s foreign minister.
In an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said he is trying to make it clear to his Iranian counterpart that the country is not equipped to decode the black boxes recovered from Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 and needs to hand them over.
“So what we’ve offered as Canada is to say, let’s send those black boxes to Paris because we do know that the French have the capability to do that, and that Canada could be participating as well as Ukraine. So I said to him, the best antidote to conspiracy is transparency.”
All 176 people on board — including 57 Canadians — died when Iran shot down the passenger plane with two missiles on Jan. 7.
The strike came just hours after Iran launched a barrage of missiles at coalition military bases in neighbouring Iraq in retaliation for the targeted killing by drone strike of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani by the Americans.
Iran has said it mistook the plane for an incoming hostile missile.
But it has refused to hand over the black boxes recovered from the crash site for one month, arguing that other countries should provide it with the equipment to do the analysis itself.
Champagne suggested that isn’t going to happen.
“What I urged my counterpart is for them to take a final decision and accept that there’s no capabilities or sufficient capabilities in Iran to do that, and therefore in the spirit of transparency — bringing accountability, justice and closure to the families — those black boxes need to be sent to Paris without delay.”
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That demand echoes Annex 13 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation, of which Iran is a signatory.
The agreement states that flight recorders from passenger flight crashes must be sent to be analyzed “without delay.”
Yet despite calls from the international response group of nations that lost citizens in the crash, Iran has refused and talks appeared to break down last week between Iran and Ukraine over demands for compensation for the families of the victims.
Iran has also accused Ukraine of leaking an audio recording of air traffic controllers in Tehran, where the plane crashed, describing an explosion.
The recording has prompted questions about whether Iran knew it had downed the plane even as it was publicly denying having done so.
Champagne and Transport Minister Marc Garneau met last week with the International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal to try to find a solution.
There has so far been no indication of progress.
John Baird, former Conservative foreign affairs minister, also weighed in on The West Block and said he thinks Champagne has handled the situation well and found alternative channels for communications with the Iranians outside of formal diplomatic relations.
Those were severed by former prime minister Stephen Harper in 2012.
Baird said he has no regrets about the decision now.
“The most important responsibility that I had as foreign minister was to ensure the safety and protection of our diplomats on the ground,” he said.
“We saw repeatedly, whether it’s the U.S. embassy, whether it’s the Canadian ambassador’s residence in 1980 — they were both stormed and taken over — whether it’s the British embassy, which was stormed and looted, the Saudi embassy was burned to the ground.”
“Iran does not respect the Vienna Convention and we can’t count on them. We couldn’t count on them to come to the aid of our diplomats, and that’s the bottom line.”