Canada, Sweden pave way for compensation talks with Iran on downed plane
Countries which lost nationals when an Ukrainian plane was shot down over Tehran in January have signed an agreement expected to pave the way for compensation negotiations with Iran.
176 people died when Flight 752 was accidentally struck by two Iranian missiles during a tit-for-tat strike on American targets in Iraq following a US attack that killed top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani.
Canada announced on Thursday that an international “coordination and response group” of countries whose nationals died on the plane had signed a memorandum of understanding. The countries were Britain, Ukraine, Sweden, Afghanistan as well as Canada, which lost a total of 85 victims (both citizens and permanent residents).
"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.
After days of evasion, the Islamic Republic admitted after the downing that its forces accidentally shot the Kiev-bound jetliner.
82 of the flight victims were Iranian nationals.