January 10, 2020 / 1:30 PM / 15 days ago

Don't hide truth behind airline crash, Germany tells Iran

FILE PHOTO: Netherlands' Foreign Minister Stef Blok attends a news conference with his Ukraine's counterpart Vadym Prystaiko in Kiev, Ukraine October 10, 2019. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Iran should not sweep the causes of a Ukrainian airline crash near Tehran under the carpet or it will risk worsening the climate of mistrust in the region and beyond, Germany’s foreign minister said in Friday.

Speaking on arrival for an emergency European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels to discuss crises in Iran and Libya, Heiko Maas echoed the sentiments of several ministers who demanded a full and transparent investigation into Wednesday’s crash that killed all 176 people on board a Ukraine International Airlines flight to Kiev from Tehran.

“It is important now that this is fully explained. There are positive signals Iran is involving other countries in clarifying what happened,” Maas said.

“This cannot be hidden under the table. If that were to happen then it would breed new mistrust and that is the last thing we need now.”

Canada and others, citing intelligence findings, have said the plane was downed shortly after take-off by an Iranian missile, probably by mistake, at a time when Iran was on alert for a U.S. military response hours after firing missiles at U.S. targets in Iraq. Iran has denied the Boeing 737-800 (BA.N) was brought down by a missile.

“It is indeed very likely that the plane has been shot down by Iranian missiles,” Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok told reporters. Asked whether Iran should be sanctioned, Blok said: “It depends on the Iranian reaction (to the outcome of independent analysis) on what should be the next steps.”

Austrian Foreign Minister Peter Guschelbauer said the EU could “not turn a blind eye” if Iran had indeed shot down the plane.

The ministers were expected to issue a final statement calling for de-escalation between the United States and Iran, preserving the 2015 nuclear pact between Iran and world powers as well as outlining their call for a through investigation into the Ukrainian jetliner crash, diplomats said.

Reporting by John Irish, Robin Emmott and Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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