Five countries to negotiate compensation from Iran for downed plane victims' families
Canada announced Thursday an agreement to launch negotiations with Iran on compensation for the families of the foreign victims of a Ukrainian passenger plane shot down in January, with Sweden expressing confidence Tehran would pay.
An international "coordination and response group" of countries whose nationals died on the plane signed a memorandum of understanding, formally paving the way for negotiations with Tehran, according to a Canadian government statement.
The countries - Canada, Britain, Ukraine, Sweden and Afghanistan - each had citizens die when Tehran's armed forces mistakenly shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752.
"The five states created the legal structure necessary to start these negotiations," Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne told AFP.
"It is a first step - necessary but only a first step - to begin negotiations to obtain reparations for the victims' families," he said.
Earlier in the day, Sweden's Foreign Minister Ann Linde told news agency TT that Tehran had agreed to compensate the families of foreign victims.
There is "no doubt" that Iran would follow through on the compensation, she said, adding that it was still unclear what sums would be paid out.
"We have signed an agreement of mutual understanding that we will now negotiate with Iran about amends, compensation to the victims' next of kin," Linde said.
Ukraine, the group's designated speaker on the negotiations, will be responsible for proposing a date to launch the talks in Tehran, Champagne said.
"These kinds of negotiations generally take several months or even years," added Champagne, whose country chairs the coordinated group.
"Iran had indicated to us its desire to start negotiations. I always judge Iran not by its words but by its actions," he warned.
The 176 victims of the crash, which occurred shortly after taking off from Tehran airport on January 8, were mostly Iranian-Canadians.
Of countries apart from Iran, Canada was the hardest hit, with a total of 85 victims (both citizens and permanent residents).
The Islamic Republic admitted days after the downing that its forces accidentally shot the Kiev-bound jetliner.
At the end of June Iran officially enlisted the help of France's BEA air accident agency to download and read the data on the flight recorder.
Ottawa had been demanding that Iran, which does not have the technical means to extract and decrypt the data, send the plane's black boxes abroad.
Agencies contributed to this report.