Iran to Send Black Boxes From Downed Ukrainian Airliner to France: Zarif

June 22 (Reuters) Iran will send the black boxes from a downed Ukrainian airliner to France, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday, according to the official IRNA news agency.

Iran shot down the Ukraine International Airlines flight on Jan. 8 with a ground-to-air missile, killing 176 people, in what Tehran later acknowledged as a “disastrous mistake” by forces on high alert during a confrontation with the United States.

“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 said, according to IRNA.

Zarif made the comments in a phone call with Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne. Canada had 57 citizens on board.

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The fate of the cockpit voice and data “black box” recorders was the subject of an international standoff after the plane was shot down, with Ukraine demanding access.

France’s BEA air accident investigation agency is known internationally as one of the leading agencies in the world for reading flight recorders, and black boxes have been sent there in other high profile cases of crashes.

The Ukrainian plane was shot down shortly after take-off in Tehran, when Iran‘s defences were on high alert, hours after Iran fired at U.S. bases in Iraq in retaliation for a U.S. attack that killed an Iranian commander at Baghdad airport.

Iran says the coronavirus crisis has contributed to delays in a probe by its Air Accident Investigation Board. Iran has been sending mixed messages about where the black boxes may be read. Last week, Iran’s Minister of Roads and Urban Development, Mohammad Eslami, said the black boxes will be sent to Ukraine.

(Reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh Editing by Peter Graff)