Ukraine pledges to help Canada get access to Iran plane investigation

Offer is significant because Canada broke diplomatic relations with Iran in 2012

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a media conference at the conclusion of a NATO leaders meeting at The Grove hotel and resort in Watford, Hertfordshire, England, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein

Ukraine will help Canada participate in the Iranian-led investigation of Wednesday’s plane crash near Tehran that killed dozens of people from their countries, says the Ukrainian envoy in Ottawa.

“The investigation on the ground is conducted by Iran, and Ukraine will of course contribute,” Andriy Shevchenko, Ukraine’s ambassador to Canada, said in an interview. “We’re ready to do everything we can to help the investigation. We hope that the Canadian offer of contribution into the investigation will be recognized and appreciated.”

The Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800, bound for Kyiv, crashed shortly after taking off from the Iranian capital, killing all 176 people on board. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said the plane was carrying 63 Canadians, 82 Iranians, 11 Ukrainian passengers and crew, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans and three Britons.

The Ukrainian offer is significant because Canada broke diplomatic relations with Iran in 2012, shuttering its Tehran embassy and expelling its diplomats. The government cited Iran’s support of terrorism and concerns for the safety of its diplomats. Canada has also been a vocal critic of Iran’s human-rights record, including at the United Nations.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada will work with its international partners to investigate the cause of the plane crash thoroughly. Transport Minister Marc Garneau said on Twitter that Canada would offer technical assistance in the crash investigation.

Said Shevchenko: “It is heartbreaking. We have been such close friends with Canada and share so many good things. Now we will have to walk through this pain together.”

Ukraine has determined that a “substantial portion” of the 63 Canadians had booked onward tickets on a flight to Toronto and were not stopping in Kyiv, said Shevchenko.

The crash occurred just hours after Iran launched missile attacks on bases in Iraq where American troops are stationed. Iran said the attacks were retaliation for the American killing of a top general near Baghdad last week.

READ MORE: At least 8 people from B.C. killed in Iran plane crash

The Iranian military disputed any suggestion the plane had been hit by a missile, and Iranian aviation authorities said they suspected a mechanical problem brought down the 3 1/2-year-old Boeing 737. Ukrainian authorities initially said it appeared mechanical failure was to blame, but later walked that back, saying nothing had been ruled out.

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne and Garneau are reaching out to their international counterparts, Trudeau said.

“Our government will continue to work closely with its international partners to ensure that this crash is thoroughly investigated, and that Canadians’ questions are answered,” Trudeau said in a statement.

“Today, I assure all Canadians that their safety and security is our top priority. We also join with the other countries who are mourning the loss of citizens.”

— With files from the Associated Press

The Canadian Press

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