Iran’s foreign minister said the black boxes from January’s shoot-down of a Ukrainian jet will be sent to France soon, months after the country downed the civilian airliner, killing all 176 people aboard.
Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Monday that France will be in receipt of the boxes within days, according to Reuters.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran will send the black box of the Ukrainian airplane to France in the coming few days in order to read its information,” Zarif reportedly said during a call with Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne. Canada had 57 citizens die in the plane crash.
France’s BEA air accident investigation agency is well-known for its expertise in working with black boxes.
Iran has faced pressure for months to turn over the boxes, which are expected to contain the last messages from the plane before it was hit by two Iranian surface-to-air missiles on Jan. 8. The shoot-down came as Iran was on high alert in the hours after it launched more than a dozen short-range ballistic missiles at bases housing U.S. forces in Iraq. The missile attacks were in retaliation for the death of Qassem Soleimani, an Iranian military commander responsible for the deaths of hundreds of U.S. troops.
Iran has blamed the delay on the coronavirus pandemic, which has ravaged the country since earlier this year. Although Iran claims it has had more than 200,000 infections and 9,742 deaths, that figure has been disputed by experts, dissident groups, and even from some elements within Iran’s own government. Leading dissident group the National Council of Resistance of Iran said Monday that it has tallied more than 60,000 deaths across the country.
Zarif also reportedly told Ukraine, which had citizens on the downed flight, that his country was ready to “resolve legal issues and discuss how to compensate the families” of victims but was awaiting a Ukrainian delegation.