Trudeau: Escalating ‘tensions’ with Iran to blame for downed jet
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said escalating tensions between the United States and Iran were to blame for the downing of a Ukraine International Airlines flight in Tehran last week.
At least 176 people were killed — including 57 Canadians — when the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile on Wednesday shortly after taking off, according to U.S. and Canadian intelligence.
“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 told Canadian network Global National on Monday.
“This is something that happens when you have conflict and war: Innocents bear the brunt of it. And it is a reminder why all of us need to work so hard on de-escalation moving forward, to reduce tensions and find a pathway that doesn’t involve further conflict and killing,” he added.
Trump earlier this month ordered the killing of top Iranian military commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani, ratcheting up tensions between Washington and Tehran.
Trump and other administration officials have insisted that Soleimani represented an “imminent” threat to U.S. forces or assets, but the president on Monday tweeted that it “doesn’t really matter” if the original explanation of an imminent threat holds because of Soleimani’s “horrible past.”
The plane was downed just hours after Iran launched missile strikes on two Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops in response to Soleimani’s Jan. 3 killing.
Iran initially denied shooting down the plane but later admitted that its military mistook the aircraft for an incoming hostile target.
Trudeau said he spoke with Trump about the incident and “talked about the need to de-escalate tensions.”
“I’ve talked about the tremendous grief and loss that Canadians are feeling, and the need for clear answers on how this happened and how we’re going to make sure it never happens again,” he said about the conversation.
Trudeau also said that the Canadian government is focusing on repatriating the remains of the victims for burial, but it could be “weeks, perhaps even months” before that takes place.
“I am hurt, like all Canadians. I am angry like all Canadians. But unlike many people I have a job to do that will be able to help these families directly. Getting answers for them is my entire focus right now,” Trudeau said.
On Thursday, Canada is set to host a meeting in London between members of the International Coordination and Response Group to decide next steps to gain access to the plane’s black box data.