Canada and its international partners are pushing for an independent criminal investigation into the destruction of the Ukrainian passenger flight in Iran last week that killed all 176 people aboard, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said this morning.
The minister was in London, U.K. today to chair the first meeting of an international co-ordination and response group made up of representatives of nations that lost citizens in the crash: Canada, Ukraine, Sweden, Afghanistan and the United Kingdom.
After a day of closed-door meetings, ministers from the five nations emerged with a framework for co-operation with Iran.
Watch: Champagne says the world is watching Iran
Among other things, the framework calls for an "independent criminal investigation, followed by transparent and impartial judicial proceedings," said Champagne.
"The world is watching," he added. "There's a path for Iran to continue in the first step they've done, which is to admit full responsibility. And when you admit full responsibility, there are consequences that flow from them and full cooperation is part of that."
The international group's other demands include:
- Full access within Iran to allow them to provide consular services to relatives of the victims.
- Assurance that the victim identification process is conducted with "dignity, transparency and to international standards, and to ensure families' wishes are respected."
- Access to a thorough, independent and transparent international investigation governed by the Convention on International Civil Aviation.
- A commitment from Iran that it will continue to assume full responsibility for the disaster and co-operate with compensation talks.
The gathering at Canada House on London's Trafalgar Square began with a small ceremony of remembrance, with the five ministers each lighting a separate wick on a single candle and pausing for a moment of silence.
Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok attended the meeting to brief the ministers on lessons learned during his country's five-year probe of the crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014. Investigators concluded the aircraft was shot down by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine. All 283 passengers and 15 crew were killed.
'We are judging Iran every day'
Under international law, Iran is leading the aviation investigation because the crash occurred within its borders, but there are precedents for handing that responsibility over to another country that suffered losses.
On Wednesday, Transport Minister Marc Garneau said Iran is co-operating with the two Canadian Transportation Safety Board investigators on the scene, but Canada still wants official status in Iran's investigation — which would allow Canadian officials to take part in the analysis of the flight recorders' data.
"We are judging Iran every day, demand by demand. Yes, we have good first steps from Iran. But obviously, this is a long process," said Champagne. "So our vision, our assessment is based on the state of facts today. We have proposed a number of things to the Iranian government."
Besides pushing Iran to compensate the victims' families, the prime minister's parliamentary secretary, Omar Alghabra, said the government also is considering offering family members of the victims a form of interim compensation while they wait for settlement of their compensation claims against Iran.
"We are actively exploring these options and we hope a decision will be made in short order," Alghabra said.
Watch: Champagne outlines demands from grieving nations