Israel ‘concerned’ by Iranian air activity in South America, welcomes Argentina’s response

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — The Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires said Thursday it was “concerned” about the Latin American activities of two Iranian airlines and welcomed Argentina’s grounding last week of a plane with an Iranian crew.

The Boeing 747 cargo plane, believed to be carrying auto parts loaded in Mexico, has been held at an Argentinian airport since Wednesday last week, its 14 Venezuelan and five Iranian crew members barred from leaving the country pending investigations.

Argentinian authorities have seized the passports of crew members of the plane, which is operated by Venezuelan state-owned Emtrasur, a subsidiary of Conviasa, which is subject to US sanctions.

On Monday, Argentinian officials raised suspicions of a link between the theft and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and their elite Al-Quds force.

“The State of Israel is particularly concerned about the activities of Iranian airlines Mahan Air and Qeshm Fars Air in Latin America,” the embassy said in a statement.

He added that the companies were “engaged in arms trafficking and the transfer of people and equipment operating for the Quds Force, under United States sanctions for their involvement in terrorist activities”.

Marc Stanley, U.S. Ambassador to Argentina, speaking in a YouTube video about his nomination, February 4, 2022. (Screenshot/YouTube)

The top US diplomat in Argentina also commented on the case.

“We follow with great interest the judicial and police investigations into the crew and the plane and thank the investigative efforts of the Argentine authorities to clarify the situation,” said US Ambassador Marc Stanley in a statement shared with the media. local.

Law enforcement searched the hotel where the crew members were staying on Tuesday under the orders of Federal Judge Federico Villena, who is investigating the crew. Argentinian authorities say they found no irregularities in the crew.

A day earlier, Paraguay said it had information that seven crew members of the plane, during its stopover in May, were members of the Quds Force.

Iran said the plane was sold by Iranian Mahan Air to a Venezuelan company last year.

Police officers at the Plaza Central Hotel during a raid, where the crew of a Venezuelan-owned Boeing 747 is staying, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday, June 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Gustavo Garello)

Mahan Air is accused by the United States of links with the Revolutionary Guards.

The statement from the Israeli embassy expressed “recognition of the rapid, efficient and firm action of the Argentine security forces who identified in real time the potential threat” posed by the aircraft.

Widening the international reverberations in the case, Venezuela harshly criticized Uruguay on Thursday night for not allowing the plane to land in Montevideo to refuel.

The plane’s crew sought to fly to Montevideo on June 8 but had to return to Buenos Aires after Uruguayan authorities refused entry into its airspace, according to a report from Argentina’s transport ministry. It was then that the plane was immobilized by the Argentine authorities.

Uruguay’s “regrettable action” could have “caused tragedy, human lives and damage to both nations,” Venezuela said in a statement, adding that it “demands an explanation of this terrible event from the part of the Uruguayan government”.

Interpol has issued arrest warrants for former Iranian leaders suspected of involvement in an attack on a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1994 that killed 85 people and injured hundreds.

In this July 18, 1994 file photo, firefighters and rescue workers search through the rubble of the community center of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association, after a car bomb shook the building in downtown Buenos Aires, in Argentina. (AP Photo/Alejandro Pagni, File)

Two years earlier, a bomb attack on the Israeli embassy in Argentina left 29 dead and 200 injured.

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