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INTERNATIONAL > Syria demands return of plane cargo seized by Ankara

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Syria's foreign ministry demanded  that Turkey return cargo seized from a Syrian Air jet after it was intercepted and forced to land in Ankara.
 
"The Syrian government calls on the Turkish authorities for a complete and proper restitution of the contents of the plane," the ministry said in a statement.

Syrian plane leaves Ankara after being grounded

A Syrian passenger plane took off from the Turkish capital Ankara earlier today after being grounded for several hours by Turkish authorities on suspicion that it was carrying military equipment destined for Syria.

"A Syrian Air passenger plane flying in Turkish airspace has landed in Ankara accompanied by military jets," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The search on the plane’s cargo revealed no arms or munitions, but some parcels carried by the plane held communications devices used for military purposes, said the report, without giving any further detail.

The plane was escorted by two Turkish F-16 jets to Ankara's Esenboğa Airport for security checks on its cargo by Turkish officals. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said there was solid intelligence suggesting that the plane carried illegal cargo in violation of the international civilian aviation rules.

Turkey had already declared that it would not allow any military plane or cargo plane carrying arms to Syria to use Turkish airspace, Davutoğlu said.


The A-320 plane, traveling from Moscow to Damascus when it was intercepted by Turkish authorities at around 6:30 p.m., was carrying 37 people including the staff, daily Hürriyet reported on its website.

There were 12 big parcels on the plane that held military communication devices, the report said. 

The Foreign Ministry has warned Turkish planes not to use Syrian airspace because "it is no longer safe." A Turkish Airlines plane carrying Turkish pilgrims from the northwestern city of Bursa to the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah made an emergency landing in the southern province of Adana, Hürriyet reported, adding that the plane took off again at around 8 p.m. and would not use Syrian airspace.

Tensions between Turkey and Syria have been running high, with sporadic exchanges of fire at the border since Oct. 8.

Last week, a Syrian shell hit the border town of Akçakale, killing five civilians -- two women and three children.

The deadly incident triggered retaliatory fire from Turkish artillery units at the border, which has been increasingly fortified by scores of anti-aircraft batteries and Howitzers since the shelling.

It also resulted in the passage of a parliamentary mandate which allows the government to authorize cross-border operations in Syria "if needed" for the next year.

The Turkish army also warned earlier Oct. 10 of a stronger response if Syrian shells continued to land on Turkish soil.

Ties between Ankara and Damascus have been dramatically strained since June, when a Turkish jet was brought down by Syrian fire, killing its two pilots.

October/10/2012

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