Speaking at a foreign policy conference in New Delhi on Wednesday, Zarif said that neither he nor President Hassan Rouhani knew the details of what happened until two days after the demolition of the commercial flight.
Zarif said, “the last nights we had people in the streets of Tehran who were demonstrating against the fact that they lied to them for a couple of days.”
After initially denying that the missiles shot down the Ukrainian flight, the General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces admitted that “the plane was accidentally hit by human error.” A statement said the plane “looked like a hostile target” and that the “plane approached a sensitive IRGC military center.”
The 176 passengers and crew died in the accident.
Rouhani tweeted on January 10 that the “internal investigation of the Armed Forces has concluded that unfortunately the missiles fired due to human error caused the horrible accident of the Ukrainian plane and the death of 176 innocent people. Investigations continue to identify and process this large tragedy and unforgivable error. “
On Wednesday, Zarif acknowledged that the Iranians were angry at the government’s delay in taking responsibility. “That is the expectation that people have with the government: that the government should have disclosed the information.”
However, he said that the government did not know the cause of the accident until two days later, and that he shared information publicly shortly after. “I, as Minister of Foreign Affairs and President, did not know until Friday afternoon and we made sure that people knew it on Friday night or at least Saturday morning.”
Zarif also credited the Iranian army as “brave enough to claim responsibility from the beginning.”