Germany says Iran lying about overflight snafu.
The Iranian embassy in Berlin issued a statement saying that three official German planes were flying to India (not two as reported last week) and had been given call signs to radio to air traffic controllers when they approached Iranian airspace from Turkey. Two of the planes gave the correct call signs and were authorized to enter Iranian airspace, Iran said. Only the third plane, carrying Merkel, gave the wrong call sign and was barred from flying over. The matter was straightened out within 20 minutes and Merkel's plane was then allowed to proceed, Iran said.
But the German Defense Ministry, which flies the official aircraft, said that was false. A spokesman said the pilot gave the call sign he had been given and was approved for entry. Only after the plane was already in Iranian airspace was it ordered to turn around and leave. The spokesman said the pilot must have given the correct call sign or he would never have been permitted to enter Iranian airspace in the first place. The Germans also said it took two hours, not 20 minutes, to get the problem straightened out.
In Tehran, the Fars news agency quoted an unnamed official as saying the Germans should not be making such a brouhaha out of a technical problem, especially given that an Iranian foreign minister had once been denied overflight entry to German airspace. The Fars report did not explain who had been denied overflight when. But the mere allegation that Iran had been treated improperly sparked speculation that the Islamic Republic might have been playing retaliation on Merkel.
The Iranian government has often said that turn-about is fair play in the conduct of foreign relations. When it reports what it says is unfair treatment, it commonly adopts that unfair treatment and applies it to the offender. It even does that with actions it declares to be illegal. For example, it has called American and Saudi fingerprinting of people arriving at their airports to be illegal, and so it has declared that it will fingerprint arriving Americans and Saudis.