Iran says it will send black boxes from the Ukraine International Airlines crash to France. The Boeing 737-800 crashed outside Tehran in January. The plane was shot down. To date, the Iranian Government has refused to hand over the black boxes. This was despite earlier promising to do so.
The plane, operating PS752 departed Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport early on the morning of January 8. An Iranian surface to air missile brought the plane down. All 176 passengers and crew on board died.
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Iran holds onto the black boxes
Reportedly, the crash caused substantial damage to the black boxes. In the immediate aftermath of the crash, Iran did agree to send the black boxes to Ukraine. However, Iran quickly backtracked. This came despite an official from Iran’s Civil Aviation Organisation saying the boxes could not be decoded in Iran.
The general rule is that the country in which the aircraft crashed takes the lead investigation role. Because the plane was a Boeing, NTSB officials from the United States would typically get involved. But Iran / United States relations are fraught and this was never going to be a straightforward exercise.
Given that the aircraft operated out of Ukraine, that country also had a role to play in the investigation. In addition, Canada maintains a keen interest. That country lost 63 of its citizens in the plane crash.
Iran has steadfastly refused to hand over the black boxes for analysis despite pressure from multiple countries to do so. In March, Iran said they would send the boxes to Ukraine, but ultimately failed to do so.
Iran blames Ukraine for the delay
In April, Iran attributed the delay to coronavirus. Around the same time, a “draft memorandum on mutual understanding” document went to Ukraine. The MOU, if signed, would have prevented both the Ukrainian state and the Ukrainian families of victims from suing Iran.
Now, an unnamed Iranian Government representative is reported in Reuters as saying the black boxes would go to Paris for analysis. The Reuters report is based on a short dispatch by the ISNA news agency. The Iranian authorities are blaming delays on Ukraine.
“In response to the delay by the Ukrainian side, Iran is likely to send a black box of the Ukrainian plane to France.”
Diplomacy behind the scenes from Canada
Radio Farda is also reporting that Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, told his Canadian counterpart that the black boxes would go to Paris “within days.”
Yesterday, Ukraine stepped up the pressure on Iran. Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said he would take Iran to the international courts if they don’t come to the party. In addition to access to the black boxes, Ukraine wants an apology and formal compensation.
“Iran is aware of our position and knows that if it does not live up to its promises, we will file a legal suit against Tehran in international courts,” Radio Farda reports President Zelsenskiy saying.
Radio Farda says Iran Foreign Minister reportedly told Canada that Iran will pay compensation to the Ukrainian families of victims and Ukrainian International Airlines.
At the time of publication, there are no reports of the black boxes having left Iran.