By Ismail Shakil
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada, Britain, Sweden and Ukraine on Wednesday called on Tehran to settle a dispute over accountability and reparations for the downing of an airliner by Iranian forces nearly 3 years ago through arbitration under the rules of the 1971 Montreal Convention.
All four countries as well as Iran are signatories of the convention, an international treaty which requires states to prevent and punish offences against civil aviation. If the countries cannot settle their dispute within six months, Iran can be taken to the International Court of Justice.
Most of the 176 people killed when Iran shot down the Ukrainian jet near Tehran in January 2020 were citizens from those four countries, which created a coordination group that seeks to hold Iran to account.
"We ... have taken concrete action today to ensure that our efforts to hold Iran to account for the unlawful downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 can progress to the dispute settlement phase," the countries said in a joint statement.
"In particular, we have requested that Iran submits to binding arbitration of the dispute ... pursuant to Article 14 of the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation of 1971," they said.
Direct talks with Iran broke down earlier this year, when the coordination group said its attempts to resolve the matter through negotiations had been "futile."
Iran says Revolutionary Guards accidentally shot down the Boeing 737 jet and blamed a misaligned radar and an error by the air defense operator at a time when tensions were high between Tehran and Washington.
At the time, Iran was on edge about possible attacks after it fired missiles at Iraqi bases housing U.S. forces in retaliation for the killing days before of its most powerful military commander, Qassem Soleimani, in a U.S. missile strike at Baghdad airport.
Ottawa has said a special Canadian forensic team charged with examining all available information about the incident found no evidence that the downing of the plane had been premeditated.
(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Ottawa; Editing by Alistair Bell)