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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 8 March 2021

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau under fire for warm greeting of Iran's Mohammad Javad Zarif

Iran refuses to co-operate fully after shooting down plane carrying dozens of Canadian citizens

Canadian Pime Minister Justin Trudeau  greets Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the 56th Munich Security Conference (MSC) on February February 14, 2020. EPA
Canadian Pime Minister Justin Trudeau  greets Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the 56th Munich Security Conference (MSC) on February February 14, 2020. EPA

Canada’s Justin Trudeau was under fire on Saturday for his warm embrace of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif despite the deaths of dozens of Canadian citizens when Iran shot down a passenger plane after it took off from Tehran’s airport last month.

Iranian officials were jubilant when the Canadian prime minister grasped Mr Zarif with both hands and exchanged greetings with a broad smile at the Munich Security Conference. Canada has no relations with Tehran and has been under pressure to push Iran for accountability and compensation for shooting down the Ukrainian passenger jet, killing all 176 people on board.

Tehran admitted its military shot down the jet but has so far refused to hand over the black box flight recorders to retrieve the data detailing the incident.

Conservative Canadian MP Peter Kent said Mr Trudeau had shaken hands “with Iran’s chief propagandist” and the families of victims expressed their dismay.

Responding to the backlash, which threatened to overshadow his visit to Munich, Mr Trudeau said he was working to secure a deal with the Iranians to send the black boxes to France.

“I made a promise to families in Canada to do everything I could to make sure that they get answers, that we have a full and complete investigation, that we understand exactly what happened,” he said. “I went by to impress upon the foreign minister of Iran how important it is that we work together.”

Iranian Canadians said they felt let down by the prime minister. “Our PM is now a prop for Zarif to boost his standing,” said Kaveh Shahrooz, a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, a think tank.

Meanwhile Canada’s Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said Iran’s failure to turn over the plane's black boxes risked undermining the international rules of aviation.

Francois-Philippe Champagne, Canada's foreign affairs minister, speaks to journalists as he arrives for the Munich Security Conference, at the Bayerischer Hof hotel in Munich, Germany, on Friday, February 14, 2020. Bloomberg
Francois-Philippe Champagne, Canada's foreign affairs minister, speaks to journalists as he arrives for the Munich Security Conference, at the Bayerischer Hof hotel in Munich, Germany, on Friday, February 14, 2020. Bloomberg

Mr Champagne said that although Iran had admitted responsibility for shooting down Ukrainian International Airlines Flight PS752, pressure had to be kept up on Tehran to co-operate with the investigation.

Canada and other countries of the victims presented Mr Zarif with a letter on Saturday demanding transfer of the black boxes and compensation in a meeting on the sidelines of the conference.

“We have moved from the why to the how,” Mr Champagne said. “We will continue to press the Iranian foreign minister and Iranian government.”

He said Canada was willing to help Iran to ensure full transparency in the process and would pursue discussions with France, which has the laboratory facilities to complete the task.

He also said there must be a complete, transparent investigation and prosecution of those responsible for downing the jet.

Updated: February 16, 2020 09:58 AM

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