Tehran, Iran | AFP | Iran said on Saturday that its armed forces had “unintentionally” shot down a Ukrainian airliner, killing all 176 passengers and crew on board.
The incident came hours after Iran launched a wave of missiles at Iraqi bases housing American troops in retaliation for the killing of Qasem Soleimani, one of Iran’s top generals, in a US drone strike.
The Iranian armed forces were first to acknowledge the error, saying the Boeing 737 had been mistaken for a “hostile target” at a time when enemy threats were at the highest level.
Following are the main elements from the five-point statement:
The armed forces said it had opened an investigation into what it called the “heartbreaking incident” after the Ukraine International Airlines plane (UIA) was brought down on Wednesday.
1. The Iranian armed forces had been on their highest level of alert after launching missiles at Iraqi bases housing US troops and following “threats by the criminal American president and military commanders”.
2. Flights by the US military had increased around Iran after the missile operation and following some reports of aerial targets moving towards “strategic centres” in the Islamic republic.
3. After taking off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport, UIA flight PS752 turned, got close to a “sensitive military site” of the Revolutionary Guards and appeared to fly like a “hostile target”. Due to “human error”, the plane was hit, which “unfortunately led to the martyrdom of a number of our dear compatriots and loss of life of a number of foreign nationals”.
4. The statement expressed “condolences and sympathy” with the families of those who died and gave an assurance that a “repetition of such mistakes would become impossible” through changes in operational procedures. It also said the armed forces would immediately present the “culprit” to the judiciary.
5. Finally, it said “relevant officials from the Revolutionary Guards should, as soon as possible, give detailed explanations to the honourable people in the national media”.
World demands full account after Iran admits downing Ukraine jet
The statement of admission has sparked some relief that at least the immediate cause of the disaster would not be concealed amid international calls for a full accounting and compensation for the victims.
Iran has invited the United States, Ukraine, Canada and others to join the crash investigation.
Herewith are some of the remarks made by top leaders in response to the Iranian statement on its responsibility for the crash.
– Ukraine: ‘Bring the guilty to court’ –
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky demanded that Iran punish those responsible, pay compensation and apologise.
“We expect Iran… to bring the guilty to the courts,” the Ukrainian leader wrote on Facebook, calling for the “payment of compensation” and the return of remains.
“We hope the inquiry will be pursued without deliberate delay and without obstruction,” Zelensky added
He also urged “total access” to the full inquiry for 45 Ukrainian experts and in a tweet also sought an “official apology”.
– Canada: ‘Transparency, justice’ –
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, with the country mourning the loss of many of its nationals, said closure and accountability were needed after Iran’s announcement.
He demanded “transparency, and justice for the families and loved ones of the victims.
“This is a national tragedy, and all Canadians are mourning together,” Trudeau’s office said in a statement.
– Russia: ‘Must learn lessons’ –
Iran must “learn lessons” from the disaster, the chairman of the Russian parliament’s foreign affairs committee said.
“If decryption of the black boxes and the work of the investigation do not prove that the Iranian army did this intentionally, and there are no logical reasons for this, the incident must be closed.
“Hoping that lessons will be learned and action taken by all parties,” Konstantin Kosachev was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
– France: ‘End escalation’ –
French Defence Minister Florence Parly said it was “important to seize this moment to give space to discussions and negotiations” on the Iran nuclear deal.
“The lessons that we should learn from the dramatic sequence of events that we have experienced… is that we must put an end to this escalation,” Parly told France Inter radio.
She reiterated the French position that everything must be done to salvage the landmark 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, which US President Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018.
– Germany: ‘Draw the right consequences’ –
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said “it was important that Iran brought clarity to this issue.
“Now Tehran needs to draw the right consequences in the continued appraisal of this dreadful catastrophe, and take measures to ensure that something like this cannot happen again,” Mass told Funke media.