Politics

Trudeau's office won't say if it recorded meeting with Iranian foreign minister

While Iran has released a video excerpt of its foreign minister meeting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canadian officials won’t say whether they have any recordings of their own of the politically sensitive interaction.

Iran releases video that cuts off Canadian PM mid-sentence after warm greeting

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on Friday. (Reuters TV)

While Iran has released a video excerpt of its foreign minister meeting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canadian officials won't say whether they have any recordings of their own of the politically sensitive interaction.

Trudeau has been criticized for his demeanour in the video and photos, also released by Iran, of the meeting as Canada attempts to get answers and compensation for the families of 57 Canadians killed when Iran shot down a Ukrainian airliner in January. 

The Iranian video shows a smiling Trudeau grasping Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif's hand with both of his.

Canadian officials say the "brief interaction" took place when Zarif was meeting with Canada's foreign affairs minister during an international security conference in Munich, and that Trudeau insisted on the need for a "full, credible and transparent" investigation into the plane's downing.

In the Iranian recording of the meeting, Trudeau can be heard saying, "I won't interrupt too much, but I just want to tell you how pleased I am at the …" at which point the video cuts out, seemingly mid-sentence.

No Canadian journalists were present during the unscheduled drop-in by Trudeau.

CBC News asked the Prime Minister's Office whether Canadian officials had recorded video or audio of the interaction, and whether any such recording could be released to provide context for Trudeau's remarks. Canada hasn't had diplomatic relations with Iran since they were cut off by Stephen Harper's government in 2012.

"I don't have a recording to share with you," said the prime minister's director of communications, Cameron Ahmad. He noted Canadian officials were quick to inform reporters that the brief meeting had occurred and explained the prime minister's intention to personally send a message about how seriously Canada takes the matter.

Asked whether he meant there was no such recording or whether he was simply unwilling to share it, Ahmad declined to elaborate.

WATCH | Trudeau shakes hands with Iran's foreign affairs minister:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on Friday. 0:19

Trudeau defended the meeting while still in Munich on Friday.

"I made a promise to families in Canada to do everything I could to make sure that they get answers," he said.

He said a full investigation would include accountability for the people responsible for the deaths.

The prime minister has had numerous meetings with Canadian families whose loved ones were killed when the plane went down.

Black box 'just sitting there,' Zarif says

Iran has resisted calls from the international community to turn over the "black box" flight data recorders to France so that they can be properly analyzed. 

In an interview with NBC News released Friday, Zarif said, that while Iran is not able to extract information from the black box, it would not hand it over to an outside government.

"We need to learn why we saw the plane as a missile. We need to learn why our operator committed such a grave mistake," he said.

He said Iran needed software, cables and expertise to interpret the data, but also that it wouldn't touch the black box without the presence of all interested parties.

For now, "it's just sitting there," Zarif told the American news outlet.

Iran pressed again for full investigation

Zarif was encouraged to release the black boxes once again on Saturday in Munich.

He held another "brief discussion," this time with representatives of the International Co-ordination and Response Group for victims of Flight PS752, made up of the five countries other than Iran whose citizens were killed in the plane's downing.

A news release by Canadian officials says that the group "pressed Iran to continue to take necessary active steps toward the resolution of the many crucial questions of fact and of law raised by the downing of the flight."

They also called for fair and timely compensation and for a transparent criminal investigation.

About the Author

Catherine Cullen

Parliamentary Bureau

Catherine Cullen is a senior reporter covering politics and Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

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