Only 30 showed passports of foreign citizens while boarding Ukrainian plane: Iranian envoy

January 10, 2022 - 21:35

TEHRAN - Manuchehr Moradi, Tehran’s ambassador to Kyiv, has said that only 30 passengers who boarded the ill-fated the Ukrainian plane at Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran on January 8, 2020, carried passports of foreign citizens.

(Part 2)

Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 was mistakenly downed by the Iranian military on January 8, 2020. It was mistaken for an invading missile by the United States.

“Only thirty people showed the passports of foreign citizens,” Moradi said in an interview with the Ukrainian UNN news agency on the second anniversary of the tragic incident. 

Following is the text of the interview that first part of it was published on Monday.

You said that during these sessions the names and surnames of the persons were named, but they were not pronounced officially. Have the names and surnames of these people been communicated to the Ukrainian side?

Considering that the judicial authorities have not yet officially notified, of course, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Embassy cannot inform the Ukrainian side about this. If the names and surnames are officially reported by the court to the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ukrainian side will definitely find out about it. Of course, such an opportunity for the families of the Ukrainians killed will exist if they appoint Iranian lawyers for themselves, and through them they can defend their interests in court, and thus learn about the quality of the process of investigating the case.

The International Group for the Coordination of Assistance to Victims of Flight PS752, which includes Ukraine, Britain, Canada and Sweden, announced a meeting on reparations on November 22 last year. Has the Iranian side refused to participate in this meeting?

The Iranian delegation during the third round of negotiations announced that it does not officially recognize this so-called "international coordination group". There are many arguments for this. First of all, it is that, according to the final statistics, of the 176 killed in this disaster, 146 people were Iranians, 11 were Ukrainians, 10 were Afghans, 5 were Canadians and 4 were Swedes. In addition, when leaving the airport, only thirty people showed the passports of foreign citizens, and the rest of the passengers entered the plane with Iranian passports.

The Islamic Republic of Iran, like many countries in the world, does not recognize dual citizenship. Therefore, persons with dual citizenship are considered Iranian citizens. In this regard, not a single British citizen is among the dead, since those persons about whom Britain claims to be its citizens, according to legal norms, are Iranian citizens. Therefore, we cannot perceive the presence of Britain in the coordination group, and therefore the composition of the international coordination group is inherently questionable, and the presence of Britain in it is called into question. Afghanistan from the very beginning of the meetings, taking into account the existing tendencies in this group towards politicization, left this group.

Obviously, Canada is the leader of this group more than other parties, and the government of this country pursues a hostile policy towards Iran and plays a greater role in decision-making than other members of the group. The government of Canada severed diplomatic relations with Iran a few years ago, and in international organizations has consistently taken the most radical and hostile position towards Iran. In this regard, this group is not cohesive enough, and does not have the necessary goodwill to resolve the issue.

Another point, which is very important, and, unfortunately, remains unnoticed by Ukrainian friends, as well as the so-called "coordination group", is that during the first round of negotiations in Kyiv, three other states (Britain, Sweden and Canada) during online meetings provided Ukraine with representative powers to negotiate payments with Iran and stated that in this case, there is no need to negotiate with other states. During this meeting, the Iranian side raised the specific question that if we reach an agreement on payments, will other states agree with this, and they clearly stated their support for any agreement between Iran and Ukraine.

Therefore, for these two important reasons, there is no argument in favor of negotiations with the so-called "coordination group". We are nevertheless convinced that during the three rounds of negotiations with the Ukrainian government we achieved good results, however, unfortunately, the positions of some members of this group, especially Canada, contributed to deviating from the path in which the case was moving forward, in particular, on the issue of payments.

During the three rounds of negotiations, representatives of departments related to the issue of payments were also present, however, the Ukrainian side insisted that, they say, we were not in a hurry to negotiate payments, and after clarifying other aspects of the case, we would approach the issue of payments. In my opinion, if the mentioned countries seek to resolve the issue of payments, they should allow them to follow the path that was opened and encourage their citizens to receive the amount proposed by Iran. The issue of paying the amount for the plane is also being considered by UIA and the Iranian side. Therefore, it seems to us that there is no need to determine new dates and threats and ultimatums. The Islamic Republic of Iran also has no reason to start any negotiations under the pressure of threats and ultimatums.

Considering what you said, did I understand correctly that in the last note sent by the coordination group, Iran was required to respond by January 5, and Iran refused to respond by that date?

We did not refuse to provide an answer; however, we stated that we were not ready to negotiate with the aforementioned group. At the same time, we stated in an official note that we are ready to hold separate negotiations with Canada, Sweden and Ukraine. Regarding Britain, although we are convinced that it is not related to this issue, we stated in our note that in order to remove some uncertainties, we are ready to negotiate with them. We have never shied away from negotiations on such an important issue as the plane crash and tried to cooperate with other states as much as possible.

Can we expect the fourth round of negotiations?

As I said, the Islamic Republic of Iran announced its readiness to conduct bilateral negotiations with Ukraine and three other states, and the holding of the fourth round depends on the degree of readiness and will on the part of the government of Ukraine. In addition, at the end of the second round of negotiations in Kyiv, although all the questions of the Ukrainian side were answered, we told our Ukrainian friends that if there were other questions and some uncertainties, separate negotiations could be held on these issues.

Regarding compensation of 150,000 dollars, do you know how many people received this amount, and are there any Ukrainian citizens among them?

The amount of $150,000 was determined in accordance with the principle of goodwill of the Iranian side and the ex-gratia rule, that is, compassionate treatment of the families of the victims, and this amount exceeds the amount that the Islamic Republic of Iran is obliged to pay according to the international convention of which it is a member. The government approved this amount, and a headquarters was created under the Ministry of Transport responsible for payments to the families of the victims, regardless of their citizenship.

As to how many families received this amount, I do not have exact data, since this process is ongoing, but I know that some have received this amount. None of the Ukrainian families has applied for compensation yet. Perhaps not enough information was provided in this regard.

What questions were raised during the third round of negotiations, and how did the Ukrainian side explain the refusal to negotiate payments?

The answer to this question should be provided by Ukrainian friends, but they, both in the negotiations and in their interviews, which they gave repeatedly, emphasized other issues, such as transparency, justice and the responsibility of the Iranian side. We did not deny the posing of these questions, and the members of the Iranian delegation present at the talks provided complete information on all aspects - technical, legal, judicial and military, informed about all the details related to the disaster, and even provided Ukrainian friends with information that is classified.

We got the impression that our Ukrainian friends did not try to achieve success in the negotiations and a final solution to the issue within the framework of bilateral negotiations, but were more inclined to put Iran in front of the so-called "coordination group" and bring the matter to a result that would answer their position. Of course, such a goal cannot correspond to goodwill and good relations between the two states - Iran and Ukraine. In addition, the government of Ukraine knows very well that from the very beginning we did not officially recognize the so-called "coordination group" and, for the above reasons, do not recognize its status.

Since you said that the cause of the crash was a human error made by the operator of the Tor M-1 air defense system, I would like to ask how the use of this system is monitored?

Air defense systems "Tor M-1" are precise systems that effectively perform the tasks assigned to them. In recent years, there has been very good, clear interaction between Iran's air defense systems and the country's civil aviation. Also, during all eight years of the war of Saddam Hussein's regime against the Islamic Republic of Iran, such interaction existed entirely, and although we then lived in war conditions, no major civil aircraft disasters occurred.

As I understood, during the negotiations an agreement was reached that the Iranian side will provide information on the Tor M-1 system. Was information provided in this regard?

The Islamic Republic of Iran, in accordance with the norms of international law and territorial competence, is investigating aspects of this case, and the information that other states request from Iran must comply with these legal norms. In addition, given that some servicemen of the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran are accused in this case, it is natural that no body or organization has permission to transfer military secrets to other countries. Therefore, to the extent that the law grants permission to the Iranian officials, they passed the necessary information to the Ukrainian state.

I studied the technical report on the disaster. Unfortunately, I could not find an answer to some of the questions. However, the media that previously published the news said that the length of the American missile was no more than one meter. In addition, the Ukrainian plane took off from the airport and was gaining altitude at a time when the rocket's movement is directed towards the ground, and the trajectories of these two objects differ from each other. Unfortunately, it was not clear to me how this disaster happened. Does the Civil Aviation Organization report answer this question?

This report answers your question. The report said that the system was moved the previous day from another location to a location near Mehrabad airport in Tehran. Unfortunately, human error began with the fact that the commander of the system did not adjust the direction to the north in this system, and if the direction to the north was not adjusted, then from which side the missile or plane would not arrive, the system will not be able to determine this. In addition, a few hours before the bitter event took place, the Islamic Republic of Iran fired several rockets at the Ein Al-Assad military base, where American soldiers were stationed.

The Iranian military was awaiting a response from the United States to the attack on the Ein al-Assad base. In such conditions, the system operator can mistake any flying object for an American missile. Therefore, this situation can be recognized as the main reason that led to the catastrophe. The Iranian technical report provided an explanation of this in its entirety.

The Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine said that the Iranian side did not fulfill the promise to provide an opportunity to familiarize the Ukrainian prosecutors with the materials of the Iranian criminal case. Has Iran given its word in this regard? 

Cooperation with the General Prosecutor's Office of Ukraine was one of the most important and most intense areas of our negotiations with the Ukrainian state, and representatives of the prosecutor's offices of the two countries, more than representatives of other divisions, conducted negotiations and dialogue with each other. During the three rounds of negotiations in Kyiv and Tehran, representatives of the Iranian and Ukrainian prosecutors participated, and the Iranian side with all openness conveyed all the information to the Ukrainian side and brought it fully into the picture during the investigation of the case.

With regard to the correspondence of the General Prosecutor's Office of Ukraine, Iranian officials replied to all letters, provided that these replies did not contradict the legislation of the Islamic Republic of Iran and within their competence. Some of the requests of the General Prosecutor's Office of Ukraine did not correspond to the competence of the judicial and law enforcement agencies of the Iranian side, and these requests went beyond the legal norms. In particular, they requested some data of a military nature. Of course, no state can transfer such data to another state.

Regarding the promises of the Iranian side, if the promises were made, they were certainly fulfilled. When committing certain acts and transactions in the legal field, the basis is goodwill, international law and bilateral agreements, and what is outside these frameworks is excessive ambition, which, as a rule, is not accepted. There is a certain contradiction here, when, on the one hand, the General Prosecutor's Office repeatedly requests information, and on the other hand, obstacles are created for the participation of the ambassador of Ukraine in court hearings.

An important point is that the General Prosecutor's Office of Ukraine also leaves a number of our requests unanswered, and if information from the Ukrainian side came to us on time, this would help us to promote transparency in the consideration of the relevant aspects of the case. Let's agree that creating an artificial atmosphere does not contribute to the achievement of certain goals and does not lead us to a result, but increases the misunderstanding.

What requests did the Iranian side send?

The Tehran Military Prosecutor's Office, in its letter to the General Prosecutor's Office of Ukraine, requested information on the technical documentation of the aircraft, the list of the UIA crew and aircraft passengers, and also raised a number of questions about legal assistance to improve the investigation process, etc., and the General Prosecutor's Office of Ukraine did not provide answers to these questions at all.

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