By Mohammad Mazhari

Canada’s propaganda on Ukraine plane crash hampering probe: Iranian ambassador

November 20, 2020 - 21:10

TEHRAN – The ambassador of Iran to Ukraine and Republic of Moldova says Canada’s propaganda campaign over the Ukrainian plane crash not only does not help resolve the issue but will “hamper Iran’s efforts to exercise rights of the victims’ families.”

In an interview with the Tehran Times, Manouchehr Moradi points to the progress achieved in the two rounds of negotiations with the Ukrainian side over the downed passenger plane, emphasizing transparency and cooperative steps of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The Ukrainian airliner was shot down shortly after taking off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport on January 8, killing all 167 passengers and 9 crew members.
On January 11, the Armed Forces General Staff released a statement saying the plane was mistakenly downed near the airport. 

The incident happened a few hours after Iran fired dozens of ballistic missiles at a U.S. airbase inside Iraq in retaliation for the assassination of top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani.
The airplane had been mistaken for an invading missile.

The victims of the crash included 82 Iranians, 63 Iranian-Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans, and three British nationals.

Ambassador Moradi also says, “Let's not forget that most of the victims of this painful incident are Iranian citizens, so the Iranian government is more entitled and insistent than other countries to clarify the incident.”

The following is the text of the interview:

Q: Can you update us about Tehran-Kyiv negotiations over the Ukrainian plane crash? 

  A:  First of all, I would like to express my deep regret and deep sorrow over the occurrence of this painful tragedy and offer my heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families.

 I truly express my solidarity with these families and I assure them that in the months following this incident, all the efforts of me and my colleagues in the Iranian embassy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and other relevant organizations in the Islamic Republic have been focused on clarifying the various dimensions of this incident as soon as possible based on a transparent and fair investigation.

 Let's not forget that most of the victims of this painful incident are Iranian citizens, so the Iranian government is more entitled and insistent than other countries to clarify the incident. In fact, negotiations with the Ukrainian side are continuing in this framework.

So far, two rounds of talks have been held between the officials of the two countries in Kyiv and Tehran. The first round of talks was held in Kyiv under conditions of coronavirus measures and air travel restrictions. During the two days of intensive negotiations, various technical, legal and judicial aspects of the case were discussed. It is worth noting that achieving results in negotiation over aviation accident cases essentially requires a long and difficult process due to its technical and legal complexities and sometimes the different provisions and principles contained in international conventions. Accordingly, negotiations between Iran and Ukraine may also require more time.

The second round of talks was held in October in Tehran, and according to the discussions in the specialized working groups, the negotiation process was described by the participants of the two countries as positive and constructive, like the first round of talks. 

Despite some untrue statements by some Western media and political circles, the Iranian side's transparency and readiness for a final settlement of the case were acknowledged by the foreign minister and other Ukrainian officials. We hope that in the third round of talks, which is scheduled to be held in Kyiv in December, we can take another big step towards finalizing the case.

Q: How will Iran pay compensation for the downing of the Ukrainian passenger plane? Why do some states like Canada prefer to make propaganda against Iran instead of direct negotiation?

A: Compensation for aviation incidents and its amount is essentially based on the rules and provisions of international conventions to which States are party. In this case, too, the Islamic Republic has always declared its readiness to pay compensation for the downed Ukrainian plane and the victims.

 The compensation will be paid to the Ukrainian side after an agreement based on the provisions of the conventions in which Iran is a member.

Regarding the second part of the question, unfortunately, despite the official and transparent stance of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the progress achieved in the two rounds of negotiations with the Ukrainian side, some countries such as Canada seek political exploitation of the incident and turn it into a tool for pursuing their hostile policies against Iran. Obviously, such an approach not only does not help to resolve the issue but can disrupt the natural process of investigation and hamper Iran’s efforts to exercise the rights of the victims’ families.

Q: What are the latest findings surrounding the reading of the flight recorders and the black boxes of the plane? 

A: Re-reading the black boxes of the crashed plane is a technical issue and part of the overall process of investigating the incident. However, there was a delay in reading the black boxes due to the spread of OVID-19 disease. In addition, the Ukrainian government insisted in the early months of the investigation that black boxes should be sent to Kyiv, while Ukrainian officials later admitted that they don’t have the technical equipment to read the black boxes. 

Finally, the black boxes of the Ukrainian plane were decoded in France under the supervision of an Iranian team, while other countries that were related to this regrettable incident dispatched delegations to Paris as observers.

The results of the decoding of the black boxes will be included in the final report of the Civil Aviation Organization which is about to be published. 

Q: How do you evaluate the level of political and economic relations between Iran and Ukraine? 

A: Over the past three decades the relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Ukraine have always been friendly and have been based on mutual interests and respect. Both countries have extensive cooperation in the political, economic, and cultural fields, and several memorandums of understanding that determine the direction of relations between the two countries have been concluded in order to improve relations.

In the political field, there is no fundamental difference between the two countries, and political officials at the level of foreign ministers and their deputies have met on various occasions over the past year. In an important event, the second round of political consultations between the deputy foreign ministers of the two countries during the recent visit of the Ukrainian delegation to Tehran was held between Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Dr. Abbas Araghchi and Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine Mr. Yevgeny Yenin in which both sides discussed cooperation on a wide range issue at bilateral and international level.
Economically, the two countries have vast capacities, and due to the complementarity of the economies of Iran and Ukraine (Ukraine's need for energy and Iran's need for some agricultural products), a good collaboration between Tehran and Kyiv is expected.

Although, the sanctions imposed by the U.S. administration on Iran and the outbreak of the Coronavirus have hampered trade between the two countries, the trade volume between Iran and Ukraine is in an acceptable state. According to the State Statistics Service of Ukraine, the volume of trade between the two countries in the first six months of 2020 is about $ 250 million, although Ukraine’s share in exports is bigger than Iran because most trade between the two countries is agricultural items and livestock feeds that Iran needs, while the Iranian side is currently unable to export oil to Ukraine. We hope that with the lifting of sanctions, Iran resumes the export of oil and its derivative products to Ukraine in order to establish a trade balance between the two countries.

Regarding culture and public diplomacy, a wide range of cooperation is underway, including Persian language teaching, as well as scientific and educational cooperation. Iranian film and culture weeks were held in Ukraine last year, and our country's presence in cultural exhibitions organized in this country was impressive. In addition, about 2,000 Iranian students are studying at Ukrainian universities.

Q: How do you assess visits by tourists from Iran to Ukraine and from Ukraine to Iran before the Coronavirus outbreak, and how did the pandemic affect this field?

A: Iran and Ukraine are two important tourist destinations in the world due to their cultural and historical tourist attractions as well as the beautiful and diverse nature of the two countries. 
However, the level of tourist visits between the two countries are not satisfactory due to several reasons, the most important is the lack of sufficient knowledge among people of the two countries. Of course, the embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran has made every effort to introduce the cultural, historical, and natural attractions of Iran, as well as establishing relations with Ukrainian tourist agencies and tour guides. But some mental barriers, as well as the sanctions imposed by the U.S., have hampered these efforts. In addition, Ukraine has traditionally not been a destination for Iranian tourists, and they have always preferred to go to Turkey and European and sometimes Asian countries.

 Perhaps Ukraine is still viewed as part of the Soviet Union, and that is because of some stereotypes. 

This is also the case with Ukrainian tourists; they are often preferring to go to beaches and take sunbathe, although those Ukrainian tourists who visited Iran have repeatedly praised the natural beauty and cultural and historical monuments and, of course, the hospitality of the Iranians.

We hope to see an increase in tourist exchange between the two countries by end of the COVID-19 and re-establishing direct flights between Tehran and Kyiv, which will strengthen the cultural ties between the two countries and in the economic interests of both.

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