Zarif warns against ‘politicization’ of plane tragedy
Iran is sending the black boxes of the accidentally downed Ukrainian passenger plane to Kiev, Tasnim News Agency reported on Saturday.
Iranian authorities are also prepared for experts from France, Canada and the United States to examine the data from the boxes, the news agency added.
All 176 people aboard the plane were killed when the Ukrainian International Airlines flight was accidentally shot down on Jan. 8 by Iranian air defenses shortly after takeoff from Tehran en route to the Ukrainian capital.
"With the use of expertise from France, Canada and America, we will try to read the (flight data recorders) in Kiev," Hassan Rezaeifar, a director in charge of accident investigations at Iran's Civil Aviation Organization was quoted as saying by Tasnim.
"If this effort is unsuccessful, then the black box will be sent to France."
The black boxes will not be read in Iran, Rezaeifar said.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa on Friday that the black box flight recorders from on board the Ukrainian International Airlines flight suffered “significant damage.”
Trudeau called for a full investigation into the plane crash and urged Iran to send the black boxes to France for analysis.
Fifty seven victims of the tragic event were Canadians.
France was one of the few countries with the ability to read the flight and cockpit data recorders from the jet, which are said to be badly damaged.
The downing occurred as Iran was on high alert for possible retaliatory action following its strikes on Iraqi bases housing US troops.
Those strikes were in retaliation for the US assassination of Iran’s top military commander Qassem Soleimani in a drone attack in Baghdad on Jan. 3.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned against any attempt at taking political advantage of the recent tragedy.
“Politicization of this tragedy must be rejected. Focus on victims’ families,” Zarif tweeted on Friday after meeting with Francois-Philippe Champagne, his counterpart from Canada.
The meeting took place at Ottawa’s request during a stopover in the Omani capital, Muscat, by Zarif who was returning from a security conference in New Delhi.
Zarif said the meeting was held “to discuss consular, technical & legal cooperation among nations impacted by #PS752 tragedy.” The two sides “agreed on continued exchanges between respective experts,” he noted.
Zarif reiterated Tehran’s regret over the tragedy, and the two top diplomats agreed to meet again in due course to further address the matter, according to IRNA.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic later described the cause of the fatal incident as human error.
Head of the Aerospace Division of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, also explained that the air defense system involved had erroneously identified the aircraft as a missile.
He added that the operator in charge had then tried to seek permission for the launch, but a communication breakdown prevented him from doing so, and forced him to decide within a “10-second” time span whether to act of his own accord or not.
The Islamic Republic’s Armed Forces were on the highest level of alert at the time of the incident after US President Donald Trump threatened to strike 52 targets inside Iran if the country sought to avenge the US assassination of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force.
Reuters and Press TV contributed to this story.