Russia seeks return of Syria cargo from Turkey: official
MOSCOW - Agence France-Press
A Syrian passenger plane is seen after it was forced to land at Ankara airport on October 10, 2012. AFP photoRussia is in contact with Turkey to recover a cargo confiscated by Ankara from a Moscow-Damascus passenger plane but so far no progress has been made, a senior foreign ministry official said Wednesday.
Turkey scrambled fighter jets earlier this month to intercept the Syrian Air passenger jet, forcing it to land at Ankara's Esenboga airport and seizing the cargo before the plane was allowed to continue its journey.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the plane was carrying "war equipment" but according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov it was carrying a legal cargo of radar equipment that Moscow wants back.
"The contacts (with Turkey for the return of the cargo) are continuing," Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said, quoted by Russian news agencies.
"As far as I know, no practical action has so far been taken," he added.
Russia is the main supplier of arms to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and has been bitterly criticised by the United States, the European Union and Turkey for refusing to cut its military cooperation.
Moscow denies it is siding with Assad in the conflict that activists say has claimed over 36,000 lives and in turn accuses the West of fuelling the violence by assisting the rebels who are battling his regime.
Russia's Kommersant daily had reported the day earlier that Russia and Turkey were in talks about the return of the cargo but said the Russian side was not confident that this would ever happen.
It said the cargo was 12 crates containing parts for radar used in missile defence systems that were being delivered by a sub-contractor rather than the original Russian manufacturer.
According to Kommersant, Russia chose to deliver the cargo on a civilian airliner to avoid attracting attention.
It said the original plan had been to put the cargo on an Aeroflot flight but the Russian flag-carrier then stopped flying to Syria so the cargo was sent on the Syrian Air flight.
The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) has now almost completed its investigation into the source of the leak that prompted Turkey to intercept the plane. "Most likely, it was the Syrian side," a source told the newspaper.