By Mohammad Mazhari 

Canada politicizing Ukraine plane crash: Iran’s Baharvand

November 21, 2020 - 10:43

TEHRAN – Mohsen Baharvand, Iran's deputy foreign minister for legal and international affairs, says that Canada’s unilateral steps and statements against Iran on the Ukrainian plane crash is hampering Tehran’s efforts to clarify the truth.

Describing Canada’s behavior against Iran as “strange”, Baharvand tells the Tehran Times that the Canadian government has begun to take unilateral actions in order to “politicize” the plane crash incident.

“Strangely, the Canadian government has begun to take unilateral actions, and we see no good reason for that except that Canada intends to politicize the issue,”  the deputy foreign minister for legal affairs laments.

Iran’s air defense mistook the Ukrainian passenger plane with an invading missile after the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps fired ballistic missiles at a U.S. airbase in western Iraq on January 8 in retaliation for the U.S. assassination of IRGC Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani in a drone attack near Baghdad’s international airport.  

The airliner was shot down shortly after taking off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport, killing all 167 passengers and 9 crew members. The victims included 82 Iranians, 63 Iranian-Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans, and three British nationals.

According to Baharvand, Iran is cooperating with the Ukrainian side, and “there is no obstacle to investigating the incident in accordance with international conventions.”

The following is the text of the interview:

Q: The Canadian Foreign Ministry has claimed that Iran is not cooperating on the Ukrainian plane crash incident. What exactly is the Canadian government looking for?

A: We do not understand Canada's behavior in the case of the Ukrainian plane crash. In meetings between the foreign ministers of two countries, we have explained what cooperation Iran had done and their representatives visited the area where the plane crashed.

They participated in reading of the black box of the plane in Paris and any other cooperation. Iran has provided any necessary cooperation with Canada and other parties.

One of our problems with Ottawa is that the Canadian government does not respect international law and tries to take unilateral action that is not really necessary.

 I think Canada is addressing this issue based on political prejudice. According to the Chicago Convention and Annex 13, the country where the incident occurred is responsible for the investigation process.

Iran is also investigating the Ukrainian plane crash incident and has given international parties the necessary access, and there are still about two months left until the report is due. Although the one-year deadline to respond and submit an incident report can be extended, the Iranian investigation team makes every effort to complete the report within the deadline.

Mr. Zarif met with his Canadian counterpart, and I was also in contact with the Canadian deputy foreign minister, and we provided everything that was needed for the Canadian side, and we responded to their demands as much as possible and within the framework of Iranian law to help in getting a better understanding of the circumstances of the incident.

Strangely, the Canadian government has begun to take unilateral actions, and we see no good reason for that except that Canada intends to politicize the issue.

 I believe that everything and all parties must follow international protocols and rules. 

 Iran has repeatedly stated its readiness to cooperate and does not see any obstacles to investigate the incident in accordance with international conventions, and we are currently cooperating with the Ukrainian side.

Q: What is the level of cooperation between Iran and the parties involved in the plane crash?

A: Regarding the Ukrainian passenger plane crash, we declared repeatedly our readiness to work with any country that is willing to negotiate on the basis of good intention and recognized air rights, such as the Chicago Convention. We accepted to compensate the families of the victims of the Ukrainian passenger plane shot down near Tehran on January 8.

We will definitely cooperate within the framework of Iranian law. We have clearly acknowledged that this mistake was made by Iran's air defense and that Tehran has not hidden anything.

Instead of hampering Iran’s effort to clarify the truth, if Canada enters into negotiations with Iran with good intention and in accordance with international conventions, the investigation will be carried out smoothly as Iran is negotiating with Ukraine. But if the Canadian government thinks that it can put pressure on Iran with propaganda and unrealistic statements, it will not work.

Q: Let’s talk about other issues involving Canada. Why has Canada become a safe haven for Iranian fraudsters?

A: We have no extradition treaty with Canada, but according to the general principles of law, Canada must extradite the offender rather than harboring and concealing them. 

According to international law, all countries are responsible for the fight against crime and financial corruption. 

I spoke with the executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and I said that we have requested Canada to extradite some of the Iranian offenders, but unfortunately it has not done so far.

However, in a meeting I had with the executive director of the United Nations Office in Vienna, I raised the same issue so that we might be able to ask Canada to help prosecute criminals and fraudsters, although Canada may not cooperate. 

We do not have blocked assets in Canada, but the Iranian government had some money in the embassy and other some diplomatic centers, mostly related to the Iranian Cultural Counsel, which Canada illegally confiscated in the wake of the U.S. lawsuit against Iran. Of course, we do not forgo our rights and Canada must repay this money.

Q: Canada also sells weapons to Saudi Arabia, which is committing war crimes in Yemen, while accusing other countries of human rights violations. How can this contradiction be justified?

A: This is a contradictory behavior. On the one hand, they consider themselves human rights defenders, but when it comes to economic interests, they turn a blind eye to war crimes committed by some states and sell illegal weapons to tyrannical regimes, while they are fully aware that most of these bombs and weapons are used against civilians. 

For example in Yemen, Saudi Arabia bombs defenseless people, and this contradiction is not justifiable. 

This shows that Canadians are exploiting human rights issues. It is quite clear that civilians, including women and children, cultural centers, mosques, and infrastructure in Yemen are the target of weapons and bombs that have been sent to West Asia by Western countries including Canada, and it is not acceptable to declare ignorance (that these weapons are used against civilians). In fact, some countries prefer to sacrifice human rights for their short-term economic interests and narrow-minded political views.

Q:  Has Iran prosecuted Canada for selling the property of its diplomatic missions?

A: We neither have a diplomatic relationship with Canada nor an extradition treaty, so Canadians have never cooperated. However, we demand the property sold and we consider it our right and we will file a lawsuit against the Canadian government in international bodies.