Turkey forces down Syrian aircraft to confiscate cargo
Turkish F-16 jets forced down a Syrian Arab airliner en route from Moscow to Damascus to land after intelligence reports said it was carrying cargo banned by civil-aviation rules. Turkey confiscated the cargo among suggestions that weapons parts and military communications equipment had been discovered.
Turkey’s confiscation of the cargo added to tensions between the two neighbors following the shelling of a Turkish border town by Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and Turkish artillery barrages in response over the past week.
Aviation rules are that Turkey must be given 10 days’ notice about any arms shipments flying in its airspace.
There have been six days of artillery exchanges across the border between Turkey and Syria triggered by the deaths of five Turkish civilians after a mortar shell landed in a frontier village on Oct. 3. The following day, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan received authorization from parliament to send troops into Syria if necessary.
Russia’s government said about half the passengers on the plane forced to land were its citizens, including some children. Turkish authorities searched the plane for weapons for several hours without finding anything, a Russian official said.
Russia demanded an explanation about the incident from Turkey’s Foreign Ministry, and consulate officials went to the Ankara airport to meet with the Russian citizens and ensure their security and rights, according to a Foreign Ministry official who discussed the matter on condition of anonymity.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had been due to visit Turkey on Oct. 14. He postponed the trip until November due to a busy schedule, the Turkish prime minister’s office said yesterday.