By Alistair Smout
LONDON, Jan 16 (Reuters) – Five countries whose citizens died when Iran shot down an airliner last week said on Thursday that Tehran should pay compensation to families of the victims, and warned that the world is watching for its response.
Canada, Ukraine, Sweden, Afghanistan and Britain said Iran should hold a “thorough, independent and transparent international investigation open to grieving nations,” in a statement issued after a meeting of officials in London.
The airliner was struck by a missile on Jan. 8 shortly after it left Tehran en route to Kiev. Iran admitted on Saturday it had shot down the Ukraine International Airlines plane in error, after initially denying it had a role in the incident. All 176 people aboard, including 57 Canadians, were killed.
The five countries asked Iran to conduct the process of identifying victims with dignity and transparency while respecting the wishes of families regarding repatriation.
“The eyes of the international community are on Iran today. I think that Iran has a choice, and the world is watching,” Canadian foreign minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said at a news conference in London.
The countries said they welcomed Iran’s engagement to date.
Earlier on Thursday, the foreign ministers of the five countries each lit a candle to commemorate the victims at the Canadian High Commission in London, and paused for a moment of reflection.
Most of those on Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 were Iranians or dual citizens, many of them students returning to studies abroad or families on their way home after visiting relatives in Iran.
The premier of Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, proposed a fund on Thursday to disburse 57 scholarships of C$10,000 ($7,663.42) each, in honour of the number of Canadians killed in the crash.
Many of the victims were academics, researchers and students linked to 19 Canadian universities.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said on Thursday that he had discussed with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif the repatriation of the bodies of Ukrainian victims.
The bodies of all 11 Ukrainians who were killed have been identified and will be transported back to Ukraine on Jan. 19, the interior ministry said in a statement to Reuters.
(Reporting by Alistair Smout and Pari Zemaryalai in London, Matthias Williams and Sergiy Karazy in Kiev, and Moira Warburton in Toronto; Additional reporting by writing by Andy Bruce; Editing by Stephen Addison and Daniel Wallis)