Zarif on US harassment of Iranian plane: ‘Outlaws must be stopped before disaster’

TEHRAN: Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has denounced the United States for harassing a scheduled Iranian civil airliner over Syria and endangering the lives of civilians, saying the American government must be reined in to prevent more disasters.

Zarif made the remark in a post on his official Twitter account on Friday after the harassment of an Iranian Beirut-bound passenger plane by two US fighter jets over the Syrian airspace Thursday night.

“US illegally occupies territory of another State and then harasses a scheduled civil airliner—endangering innocent civilian passengers ostensibly to protect its occupation forces,” the top Iranian diplomat said.

He added that Washington has displayed “audacity to compound lawlessness upon lawlessness.”

“These outlaws must be stopped before disaster.”

On Thursday night, US warplanes operating illegally in Syria conducted some aggressive and “dangerous” maneuvering close to the Mahan Air flight in an act of air piracy.

Mahan Air’s Flight 1152 had taken off from Tehran and was en route to the Lebanese capital when the incident happened over Syria’s hugely-strategic al-Tanf region.

In response, the US Central Command said a single F-15 had made a “visual inspection” of the Iranian airliner “in accordance with international standards… to ensure the safety of coalition personnel” at the military base in al-Tanf.

The command added that the US F-15 was on a “routine air mission” in Syria and conducted “a standard visual inspection of a Mahan Air passenger airliner at a safe distance of approximately 1,000 meters”.

In a statement on Friday, the Civil Aviation Organization of Iran said it will seriously pursue the case and lodge a complaint over the “unlawful” act at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The Iranian organization urged the ICAO to immediately address the move, which is “a clear violation of the international law and the aviation standards and regulations.”

Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi censured CENTCOM’s “adventurous and dangerous” move and said it violates international aviation rules and regulations and disturbs regional peace and security

“The Islamic Republic of Iran will not leave any hostile action against the Iranian nation unanswered and will show a firm and appropriate reaction to any unwise move when the time is ripe,” Mousavi said in a statement.

He warned of any new adventure by the US or the Israeli regime in the region. “Stability and security in the West Asia region should not turn into a plaything for election campaigns in the US.”

He ridiculed CENTCOM’s claim that the F-15 was on a “routine air mission” and emphasized that both the presence of US troops in Syria and the mission of its fighter jets are illegal.

“More importantly, no one has allowed the US to inspect civilian planes with its fighter jets,” the Iranian official said, emphasizing that it is an “illegal and dangerous” move which endangers the lives of people, particularly given the fact that no safe distance was observed despite claims otherwise.

Mousavi noted that Tehran would pursue the case through legal and technical channels and said, “The Islamic Republic of Iran will follow up on this US move through international legal circles, particularly ICAO, and will not allow the US to undermine all international regulations with its bullying behavior.”

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