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Five Nations Demand Iran Hand Over Black Boxes Of Downed Civilian Plane

Soldiers carry a coffin containing the remains of one of the eleven Ukrainian victims of flight 752 during a memorial ceremony at the Boryspil International Airport, outside Kyiv, Ukraine January 19, 2020
Soldiers carry a coffin containing the remains of one of the eleven Ukrainian victims of flight 752 during a memorial ceremony at the Boryspil International Airport, outside Kyiv, Ukraine January 19, 2020

The representatives of the nations that lost citizens when Iran shot down a civilian plane on January 8 over Tehran have called upon the Islamic Republic to hand over the black boxes for expert analysis.

Victims of the crash included 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, eleven Ukrainians, ten Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans, and three Britons. Canada, Ukraine, Germany, Britain and Afghanistan have a formed a group to pursue the thorough investigation of the incident

The three-year-old Boeing 737-800, flight 752 operated by the Ukrainian International Airlines (UIA) took off from Imam Khomeini international airport at 6.12 am Tehran time on January 8. A few minutes later, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) fired two anti-air missiles, killing all 176 onboard.

After their second session on Saturday, February 15, the representatives of five nations insisted that the Islamic Republic was obliged to respond to many unanswered questions concerning the UIA's downed plane.

At the end of the "International Coordination and Response Group for victims of Flight PS752", Canadian Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne said on Saturday, "On behalf of the grieving nations of this tragedy, we told [the Islamic Republic Foreign] Minister [Mohammad Javad] Zarif in no certain terms that Iran must take steps toward resolving many outstanding questions of fact and of law."

The Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan, Canada, Ukraine, as well as Sweden's Minister of Defense, and a senior British diplomat were present at the second session of "International Coordination and Response Group for victims of Flight PS752" held on Saturday on the sidelines of the annual Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany.

The representatives of the five nations met Zarif at their second session on Saturday. They pressed him for handing over the doomed Boeing's black boxes to France, where it can be read.

A day earlier, on the sidelines of the conference, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he had "impressed upon" Iran's foreign minister on Friday that a complete and independent investigation into the shooting down of the Ukrainian passenger plane in January had to be carried out.

Trudeau has insisted, "Iran does not have the level of technical expertise and mostly the equipment necessary to be able to analyze the damaged black boxes quickly," adding, "There is a beginning of a consensus that ... (France) would be the right place to send those black boxes to get the proper information from them in a rapid way, and that is what we are encouraging the Iranian authorities to agree to."

The contents of flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders are usually critical to crash investigations. Iran doesn't have the technical capabilities to read the black boxes. Based on international regulations, Iran is expected to ask other countries with the proper knowledge and equipment to help.

Radio Farda's correspondent at the Munich conference reported that Canada is adamant in securing a full investigation of the black boxes by a third party.

While admitting the Islamic Republic's inability to decipher the data of the black boxes without the help of Western experts, Zarif defended the position of Tehran on the refusal to transfer the flight recorders to other countries.

Zarif also maintained that Tehran had turned to the United States for help in decoding the black boxes but was refused. This was in fact a request for transfer of sensitive technology; something Washington would not do amid high tensions with Tehran.

In the meantime, Canadian lawyers, who previously successfully sued Iran, are seeking a class-action lawsuit on behalf of victims, looking for at least C$1.5 billion ($1.1 billion) in compensation.

The suit has named the Islamic Republic, its Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, and others as defendants.

On February 2, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky disclosed that Iran proposed paying $80,000 each to the families of Ukrainian citizens killed in the shooting down of the UIA plane, but the Ukrainian side rejected the offer.

"Of course, human life is not measured by any money, but we will press for higher payments," Zelensky told TSN.Tyzhden weekly news program on the 1+1 television channel, adding that Ukraine would still file a lawsuit against the Islamic Republic with an international court.