Iran snubs another deadline in PS752 crash as families call for action

Iran has snubbed yet another deadline set by Canada and its allies to negotiate a settlement for the families of those killed when its military shot down a passenger jet two years ago.

Countries representing victims, international aviation authorities stonewalled by Iran on investigation

Placards bearing the faces of the victims of Flight PS752 appear at an event in Toronto last summer. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Iran has snubbed yet another deadline set by Canada and its allies to negotiate a settlement for the families of those killed when its military shot down a passenger jet two years ago.

That comes as no surprise to the spokesperson for loved ones of the people killed on Jan. 8, 2020, when Iran's Revolutionary Guard shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752.

All 176 people on board died, including 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents, along with nationals of Britain, Ukraine, Afghanistan and Sweden.

The coalition of countries, which calls itself the International Co-ordination and Response Group, last month gave Iran a deadline of Wednesday to come to the bargaining table and negotiate compensation for the victims' loved ones. 

But there was no response from Iran — part of a pattern that has seen the coalition of countries and international aviation authorities repeatedly stonewalled on investigating the aircraft's destruction and holding the perpetrators to account.

In a statement Thursday morning, the coalition said that Iran is "categorically rejecting any further negotiations with the group related to our collective demand for reparations."

"The co-ordination group has determined that further attempts to negotiate with Iran on reparations for the destruction of Flight PS752 at this time are futile," wrote the coalition of countries.

"The co-ordination group will now focus on subsequent actions to take to resolve this matter in accordance with international law."

Hamed Esmaeilion, whose wife and nine-year-old daughter died in the tragedy, called on Canada and its allies to refer the matter to the International Civil Aviation Organization for more aggressive action toward Iran. 

"This case should have gone to ICAO a long time ago. We had said to all these governments since the beginning that Iran won't comply. They decided to learn it the hard way," Esmaeilion said Wednesday.

Esmaeilion, the spokesperson for the Association of Victims' Families of Flight PS752, has in the past criticized the ICAO for failing to hold Iran accountable and enforce international aviation rules.

"This case will be referred to ICAO immediately. Today. Now. Today diplomacy ends and justice begins." 

Iran showed 'apparent reluctance'

He also called on the RCMP to open "a criminal case immediately based on the terrorist nature of this crime." 

A spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada said that the government remains committed to "seeking answers and pursuing justice for this tragedy for the victims and their families."

Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly also has met with families and counterparts in other countries in the coalition, said spokesperson Lama Khodr in an emailed response to questions.

Canada and its coalition partners initially asked Iran to discuss compensation during the week of Jan. 17, but because Iran showed "apparent reluctance," that deadline was moved up to Wednesday, said Khodr, referring to a December statement from the group of countries.

In its Dec. 16 statement, the response group said that if it had no reply from Iran by Jan. 5, it would "have to assume that further attempts to negotiate reparations with Iran are futile. The Co-ordination Group will have to seriously consider other actions to resolve this matter within the framework of international law." 

'Know that we stand with you,' Trudeau said

The Jan. 8, 2020, tragedy unfolded against a backdrop of escalating violence in the region. 

Days earlier, a U.S. drone strike killed Iran's top military commander in Iraq. 

Iran then retaliated by launching missile attacks on bases in Iraq where American troops were stationed. Canadian troops were also stationed on the base as part of an international mission. No military personnel were harmed. 

Then came the destruction of PS752. Iran initially denied responsibility but admitted three days later that its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard mistakenly hit the Ukrainian jetliner with two surface-to-air missiles. 

Iran has blamed human error, but Canada and its allies have dismissed the explanation and are demanding a full accounting from the country — demands that have essentially fallen on deaf ears in Tehran. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau noted the upcoming second anniversary of the tragedy in remarks at a news conference on Wednesday. 

"This is also a difficult time of year as we remember the victims of flight PS752 and other air disasters. Families who continue to grieve who celebrated yet another holiday season with empty spaces around the table," he said. 

"Know that we stand with you. Know that we continue to fight for you. Know that we will continue to be there to support you as you grieve, as you face the long slow process of healing and as we continue to demand accountability and justice."

With files from CBC News

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