OTTAWA/TEHRAN (Dispatches) -- Victims of a Ukrainian jetliner mistakenly down in Tehran would still be alive if not for a recent escalation of tensions partly triggered by the United States, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said.
"I think if there were no tensions, if there was no escalation recently in the region, those Canadians would be right now home with their families,” Trudeau said in an interview with Global television.
He added that the international community has been "very, very clear about needing to have a non-nuclear Iran” but also in "managing the tensions in the region that are brought about by US actions as well.”
The Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737 was shot down by a missile shortly after taking off from Tehran before dawn last Wednesday, killing all 176 on board.
Longstanding U.S.-Iran tensions have soared since January 3 when missiles fired from a U.S. drone martyred the Middle East’s most prominent anti-terror commander General Qassem Soleimani near Baghdad’s airport.
Iran responded with a barrage of missiles at two U.S. bases in Iraq, which left the United States and its allies shell-shocked.
Trudeau said he would have "obviously” liked a heads-up from Washington about the drone strike on Gen. Soleimani.
Over the weekend, Trudeau said he had spoken with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, who admitted earlier Saturday that the airliner was mistakenly shot down by Iranian missiles.
At a televised press conference
on Saturday, Trudeau said he told Rouhani the admission was "an important step”.
The prime minister also said he insisted to Rouhani that Canada be allowed to participate in the investigation.
Three members of a Canadian rapid deployment team flying to Tehran will have access to the plane’s wreckage and blackboxes, Iranian officials confirmed Monday.
Aviation officials from Iran, Ukraine and Canada held a meeting in Tehran on Tuesday over the investigation of the crash, Iranian national TV reported in an online post.
Rouhani said on Tuesday Iran will punish all those responsible for the accidental shooting down the Ukrainian passenger plane, adding that the "tragic event” would be investigated thoroughly.
"It was an unforgivable error ... one person cannot be solely responsible for the plane crash,” he said.
"Iranian armed forces admitting their mistake is a good first step ... We should assure people that it will not happen again,” he said, adding that his government was "accountable to Iranian and other nations who lost lives in the plane crash”.