Globe and Mail:

The plight of Canadians unable to leave Iran because of the coronavirus crisis is an example of why Canada needs diplomatic relations and consular staff in Tehran, the Iranian Canadian Congress says.

The vice-president of the congress, Pouyam Tabasinejad, said the organization has received more than 100 e-mails from Canadians in Iran, who have been unable to leave the country after most commercial flights were cancelled because of the outbreak – and it is now calling for Ottawa to organize an airlift.

Mr. Tabasinejad said it is the second emergency in as many months – after the downing of Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 by Iranian missiles that killed 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents. It demonstrates, he said, that Canadians are being hurt by the lack of a diplomatic mission to provide consular services.

Those stranded, including some elderly Iranian-Canadians, have no official help on the ground in Iran, he said. “They’re stuck there and we don’t have anybody there to see what can be done,” Mr. Tabasinejad said.

In the House of Commons on Thursday, New Democratic MP Jenny Kwan asked the government to commit to flying Canadians out, but Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said Canadians in Iran should take commercial flights “while they remain available,” and said they can access consular services in the Turkish capital of Ankara – 1,700 kilometres from Tehran.

The Globe and Mail reported this week that in January, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif proposed talks toward resuming diplomatic relations with Canada that have been suspended since 2012. However, Mr. Champagne put him off, insisting that relations now must focus on issues surrounding Flight 752.

Mr. Champagne has repeatedly called for Iran to bring the plane’s flight recorders to a foreign laboratory for analysis, since Iranian investigators cannot read them.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during the 2015 election campaign that he would resume diplomatic ties with Iran that were suspended in 2012, when Stephen Harper’s Conservative government closed Canada’s embassy in Tehran.

At a meeting with Mr. Champagne in Oman on Jan 17, Mr. Zarif raised the idea of opening “interests sections” – offices typically housed in the embassies of another country – rather than opening a new embassy.

But resuming diplomatic ties remains controversial and Conservative MP Peter Kent argued that it is a bad idea, not just now, but for the foreseeable future.

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