Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko told reporters that he would bring up the issue when meeting in Kiev with Mohammad Eslami, Iran’s minister of roads and urban development. Eslami was there to officially apologize for Iran shooting down the plane, killing 176 people, Prystaiko said.
“His main task is to apologize officially and acknowledge what happened. We hope that we can go a little further than just political discussions and discuss practical problems. Among them in particular is the return of the black boxes,” Prystaiko said.
“Unfortunately, at first they stated that they were handing [the black boxes] over, then the same person stated that they were not handing them over. This created some misunderstanding in Ukraine and we were starting to be asked: are they being handed over or not? We are trying to explain that according to the agreements, the Convention on International Civil Aviation, it is not simply a right, but an obligation of a country where a catastrophe happened to start an investigation,” he added.
“If there are no technical facilities, this country is obliged to invite other countries to assist. We, as a country which suffered the most in this disaster, demand that black boxes should be handed over. In the end, the boxes belong to us because they belong to the Ukrainian company.”
Prystaiko said on Jan. 17 that Iran was ready to hand over the black boxes but Iran later said it has “no plans” to hand them over.
“The flight recorders from the Ukrainian Boeing are in Iranian hands and we have no plans to send them out,” Hassan Rezaeifar, who is leading the Iranian probe into the situation, told state-run IRNA.
“We are trying to read the black boxes here in Iran. Otherwise, our options are Ukraine and France, but no decision has been taken so far to send them to another country,” he added.
His comments, reported Sunday, came one day after he told the semi-official Tasnim agency that it wasn’t possible to process the information from the boxes in Iran. Rezaeifar told the outlet that the boxes would be sent to Kiev, where American, French, and Canadian experts could help analyze the information.
Most of those on the plane were Iranians or Canadians. There were also citizens of the United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, Afghanistan, and Ukraine among the dead.
Iran’s military admitted, several days after denying the plane was downed, that it indeed shot down the aircraft. The military said it was a mistake.
Reuters contributed to this report.