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Iran Minister Signals Willingness To Hand Over Ukrainian Plane's Black Boxes


Rescue workers carry the body of a victim of a Ukrainian plane crash in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020.

Iranian Minister of Road and Urban Development says if the Aircraft Accident Investigation Board of Iranian and Ukrainian experts failed to read the black boxes of the Ukraine International Airlines' (UIA) plane downed in January over Tehran, the flight recorders would be sent to a third country.

The three-year-old Boeing 737-800, flight 752 operated by the UIA took off from Tehran airport on January 8. A few minutes later, amid tension with the U.S., the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) fired two anti-air missiles, killing all 176 onboard.

"Iran and Ukraine are jointly investigating the black box of the downed passenger plane, and if we failed to decipher its black boxes, we would send the flight recorders to a third country, in coordination with Kyiv," Mohammad Eslami reiterated.

Furthermore, he insisted that Tehran and Kyiv were in the process of "studying" the case. At the same time, the black boxes are only a part of the investigation, and there were other outstanding questions remaining to be answered, Salami maintained without further elaboration.

Forty days after the tragic event the fate of its black boxes is still undecided.

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.

The Islamic Republic authorities have repeatedly admitted that Iran does not have the level of technical expertise and the relevant equipment to be able to analyze and decipher the damaged black boxes.

As recently as last week, the representatives of the nations that lost citizens in the downing of the plane called upon the Islamic Republic to hand over the black boxes for expert analysis.

Nonetheless, Tehran has vehemently rejected the request so far. On January 22, Salami had ruled out handing over the black boxes to other countries.

The Islamic Republic Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, also told the American TV network, NBC, on February 15, "We are not capable of reading the flight recorders, but we will not hand it over."

Meanwhile, Zarif maintained that everybody had access to the knowledge and equipment necessary for reading black boxes, yet nobody was prepared to provide Iran with the relevant information. "It is our national right to know," Zarif asserted.

Responding to Zarif's comments, Ukraine's foreign minister, Vadym Prystaiko, has explained that transporting the necessary equipment to Iran was very difficult, and a "sensitive" matter.

"We want to give Iranians certain time to understand how to ensure full transparency of this procedure," Prystaiko said.

On January 22, the U.S. Treasury Department granted General Electric a license to help in the investigation of the downed UIA plane in Tehran.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had said earlier that the department would grant sanction waivers to allow Americans or anyone else to participate in the investigation.

GE co-owns with France's Safran SA, the French-U.S. firm CFM that made the plane's engines.

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