Sunday 26 January 2020

European airlines advised to avoid Iranian airspace until further notice after Ukrainian aircraft shot down earlier this week

FILE PHOTO: Debris of a plane belonging to Ukraine International Airlines, that crashed after taking off from Iran's Imam Khomeini airport, is seen on the outskirts of Tehran, Iran January 8, 2020. Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
FILE PHOTO: Debris of a plane belonging to Ukraine International Airlines, that crashed after taking off from Iran's Imam Khomeini airport, is seen on the outskirts of Tehran, Iran January 8, 2020. Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
Friends and faculty members gather for a memorial service for the five University of Windsor students who died in the Ukraine International Airlines flight crash (Rob Gurdebeke/The Canadian Press/AP)
An airport employee looks at the tributes inside Borispil international airport in Kyiv, Ukraine for the flight crew of the Ukrainian 737-800 plane that crashed on the outskirts of Tehran (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy leads a meeting of the emergency response team (AP)
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a candle light vigil for victims of the Ukraine International Airlines plane crash, Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020, in Ottawa, Ontario. The civilian Ukrainian jetliner crashed near Tehran late Tuesday, killing all 176 people on board. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP)
Niloufar Ebrahim and Saeed Tahmasebi died in crash
Flowers and candles are placed in front of portraits of the flight crew members (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)
People look at a memorial at Borispil international airport in Kyiv, Ukraine (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)
Victims of the Ukraine International Airlines crash in Iran, University of Alberta professors Mojgan Daneshmand and Pedram Mousavi Family photo/Handout via REUTERS
Security look at passengers' belongings at the site where the Ukraine International Airlines plane crashed after take-off from Iran's Imam Khomeini airport, on the outskirts of Tehran, Iran January 8, 2020. Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
Red Crescent workers check the debris from the Ukraine International Airlines plane, that crashed after take-off from Iran's Imam Khomeini airport, on the outskirts of Tehran, Iran January 8, 2020. Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
Rescue team works among debris of a plane belonging to Ukraine International Airlines, that crashed after take-off from Iran's Imam Khomeini airport, on the outskirts of Tehran, Iran January 8, 2020. Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
Passengers' belongings are pictured at the site where the Ukraine International Airlines plane crashed after take-off from Iran's Imam Khomeini airport, on the outskirts of Tehran, Iran January 8, 2020. Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
A memorial poster and flowers are placed outside the Iranian Embassy to commemorate the victims of the Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 plane crash, in Kiev, Ukraine January 8, 2020. The words on the poster read: "Tehran-Kiev. We mourn" REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
Flowers and a memorial poster are placed outside the Iranian Embassy to commemorate the victims of the Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 plane crash, in Kiev, Ukraine January 8, 2020. The words on the poster read: "Tehran-Kiev. We mourn" REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
Ukraine International Airlines president Yevhenii Dykhne speaks during a news briefing following the crash of the Boeing 737-800 plane, flight PS 752, on the outskirts of Tehran, at the Boryspil International Airport, outside Kiev, Ukraine January 8, 2020. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
A woman reacts during a news briefing following the crash of the Boeing 737-800 plane, flight PS 752, on the outskirts of Tehran, at the Boryspil International Airport, outside Kiev, Ukraine January 8, 2020. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

Catherine Wylie

European airlines should avoid Iranian airspace until further notice, the EU Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said on Saturday following Iran's admission that its armed forces inadvertently shot down a Ukrainian airliner earlier in the week.

The advice expands on an earlier EASA recommendation that national authorities bar airlines from overflying Iran below 25,000 feet. It was issued "in light of the statement from Iran that its armed forces accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger aircraft", EASA said.

Iran had earlier admitted unintentionally shooting down the Ukrainian aircraft which crashed near Tehran, killing all 176 people on board.

The Iranian government had previously denied accusations that it was responsible, but President Hassan Rouhani has now said missiles were fired "due to human error" and described it as "unforgivable" and a "disastrous mistake".

US officials had already said the plane appeared to have been unintentionally hit by a surface-to-air missile near Tehran on Wednesday hours after Iran launched ballistic missiles at two US bases in Iraq to avenge the killing of its top general, Qassem Soleimani, in an American air strike.

All 176 people, including at least four believed to be British nationals, on board Ukrainian International Airlines flight PS752 from Tehran to Kyiv were killed when the plane came down moments after take-off.

A military statement carried by state media said the plane was mistaken for a "hostile target", adding that the military was at its "highest level of readiness" amid heightened tensions with the US.

President Rouhani wrote on Twitter: "Armed Forces' internal investigation has concluded that regrettably missiles fired due to human error caused the horrific crash of the Ukrainian plane & death of 176 innocent people.

"Investigations continue to identify & prosecute this great tragedy & unforgivable mistake."

He added: "The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake. My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families. I offer my sincerest condolences."

Mr Rouhani blamed the tragedy on "threats and bullying" by the US after the killing of Gen Soleimani.

Foreign minister Javad Zarif said it was a "sad day", adding: "Human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster."

Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that his country expects "assurances" from Iran of a "full and open investigation, bringing the perpetrators to justice".

He said Ukraine expected the "paying of compensation" and "official apologies through diplomatic channels".

The majority of the plane crash victims were Iranians or Iranian-Canadians, while at least four of the victims are believed to be British nationals.

British citizens Sam Zokaei, Saeed Tahmasebi Khademasadi and Mohammad Reza Kadkhoda Zadeh were identified as among the dead on Wednesday.

Iran had ruled out a missile strike by its air defences and initially suggested the cause was a fire in one of the plane's engines.

Iranian ambassador to the UK Hamid Baeidinejad told Sky News on Friday that he was "clear" and "confident" that the Iranian military was not responsible for the downing of the plane.

On Saturday morning, he apologised on Twitter for "conveying such wrong findings".

PA Media

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