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Iran Said To Return ‘Missing’ Armenian Plane


Iran - A Boeing 747 of Iran's national airline is parked at Mehrabad International airport in Tehran, June 2003.

An Armenian government agency said on Thursday that civil aviation authorities in neighboring Iran have pledged to return an Armenian passenger aircraft that mysteriously landed in Tehran last month.

The Boeing 737-300 leased by Fly Armenia Airways, a private carrier, reportedly went missing on February 20 for still unclear reasons.

The company said that the plane underwent repairs in Estonia’s capital Tallinn and was due to proceed to Ukraine for further maintenance. It said the plane ended up at Tehran’s Mehrabad airport due to technical problems that emerged during that flight.

Other reports claimed that the plane took off from the Bulgarian city of Varna and was due to fly to Sharjah airport in the United Arab Emirates.

Many in Armenia questioned the airline’s explanation. Some speculated that the Boeing 737-300 was secretly sold to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions.

The U.S. Embassy in Yerevan expressed concern about the incident and urged the Armenian authorities to ascertain the plane’s whereabouts. It warned that the sanctions prohibit any transfer of U.S.-made aircraft or their spare parts to the Islamic Republic.

Armenia’s Civil Aviation Committee launched an inquiry into the plane’s possible disappearance.

In a statement released on Thursday, the committee said that it has reached a “tentative agreement” with Iranian authorities on the plane’s return to Armenia. It said that Iranian officials have informed their Armenian colleagues that the plane is still malfunctioning and that Iranian aviation specialists need more time to decide whether it can safely fly to Yerevan.

“The [Armenian] Foreign Ministry is informed, and efforts are being made to bring the plane back to Armenia,” a Fly Armenia spokesman, Arsen Haytayan, said for his part.

Haytayan declined to clarify why the plane deviated from its intended flight path.

Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) is conducting a separate, criminal investigation into the circumstances of its flight to Iran. The NSS has not charged anyone so far.

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