Iran said on January 7 that it is prepared to meet bilaterally with countries whose nationals died in Iran’s accidental downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet two years ago, but it couched the offer in defiant terms that echoed days of denials after the tragedy played out in the skies over Tehran.
The statement by the Iranian Foreign Ministry followed a joint announcement by Ukraine, Britain, Canada, and Sweden that they were abandoning a two-year effort to negotiate with Tehran over reparations for the victims and would pursue the matter through international legal channels.
Iranian officials eventually blamed the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), a branch of Iran’s armed forces, for firing on Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 with 176 people aboard because of technical and human error and with tensions high between Tehran and the United States.
“Despite certain countries’ illegal actions and attempts to exploit this tragic event…, Iran remains ready to negotiate bilaterally with each of the relevant states,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry said via state media.
It said any talks should respect “sovereignty, domestic laws, and international obligations.”
It was unclear what illegalities the Iranians believed any other countries had committed.
More than 130 of the passengers had ties to Canada. Citizens or residents of Afghanistan, Britain, Iran, Ukraine, and Sweden were also killed.
Canada said in June that it found no evidence of premeditation in the downing of the aircraft.
In May, Human Rights Watch accused Iranian security agencies of harassing and abusing the victims’ families to “squash any hope for justice.”
A Canadian court last week awarded $84 million and interest to the families of six of the victims.
The Iranian government said separately on January 7 that it has begun paying compensation to the families of those killed.
“The Transport Ministry has made transfers to a certain number of [victims’] families,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Arash Khodaei, a vice president of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization, said that “the sum of $150,000 has been transferred” to some families, while “the process has begun” for others.
The payment “does not infringe upon [their[ right to take legal action,” state news agency IRNA quoted him as saying.
Ukrainian and Canadian officials strongly criticized the announcement, saying compensation should not be settled through unilateral declarations.
The Foreign Ministry statement marked the second anniversary of the downing of the flight on January 8, 2020. Three days after the Kyiv-bound flight was shot down, the Iranian armed forces admitted its forces had acted “by mistake.”