US backs Turkey for grounding Syrian plane
WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
A Syrian passenger plane is seen after it was forced to land at Ankara airport on October 10, 2012. AFP photoThe United States threw its backing behind Turkey Thursday as new tensions flared with Syria's top ally, Russia, when Ankara forced a Syrian passenger jet to land for inspections.
Turkish officials said the SyriaAir plane, which took off Moscow, was carrying arms destined for the Syrian defense ministry.
"We strongly support the government of Turkey's decision to inspect the plane," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, although she said she could not confirm what had been found on board the plane.
"Any transfer of any military equipment to the Syrian regime at this time is very concerning. And we look forward to hearing more from the Turkish side when they get to the bottom of what they found," she added.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the SyrianAir plane was carrying "equipment and ammunition" destined for the Syrian defense ministry that had apparently been provided by Russia's arms export agency.
Erdogan added that the confiscated material -- which he said came from a Russian military supplier -- was still being meticulously studied by the Turkish authorities.
Russia has demanded an explanation, accusing the Turkish authorities of endangering the lives of passengers, while the Syrian regime furiously demanded that Turkey return the cargo it had seized at Ankara's Esenboga airport.