Syrian pilot defects to Jordan with MiG plane

Syrian pilot defects to Jordan with MiG plane

Syrian pilot defects to Jordan with MiG plane

Free Syrian Army fighters sit in a house on the outskirts of Aleppo. A Syrian pilot was granted political asylum after landing his MiG fighter jet in neighboring Jordan. AP photo

Jordan granted political asylum to a Syrian pilot yesterday hours after he landed his MiG-21 jet at a military air base in the kingdom, in the first such air force defection in the 15-month revolt.

“The council of ministers has decided to grant the pilot, Colonel Hassan Merei al-Hamade, political asylum, on his request,” Information Minister Samih Maaytah told Agence France-Presse. A government official said that the pilot “made an emergency landing at the King Hussein air base in Mafraq,” in northern Jordan near the border with Syria.

Russia confirms cargo ship carrying Syria helicopters
Later yesterday, the Syrian Defense Ministry said that a military pilot was a “traitor” and that it was in contact with Jordanian authorities to retrieve the aircraft. “The pilot is considered a deserter from service and a traitor to his country and his military honor. Contacts are underway with the Jordanian side to make arrangements to return the plane,” a statement by the ministry said. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said a Russian cargo ship that turned back home while travelling to Syria was carrying three repaired helicopters as well as air defense systems.

Britain said on June 19 that the Alaed had apparently headed back toward Russia after a London-headquartered insurer withdrew coverage from the vessel, saying it had been told of allegations it was carrying weapons. “The ship was carrying air defense systems, which can be (used) only for repelling foreign aggression and not against peaceful demonstrators ... and it was carrying three repaired helicopters,” Lavrov told Ekho Mosvky radio, Reuters reported.

Lavrov also said that any peace plan for Syria that calls on President Bashar al-Assad to leave power and go into exile would not work because he would not quit. “A scheme according to which President Assad should leave somewhere before something happens in terms of a cessation of violence and a political process, this scheme simply does not work from the very start,” Lavrov said.

“It is infeasible because he will not leave.” Lavrov indicated that the Syrian leader was not ready to negotiate his removal from power because he still enjoyed popular support. “I do not think Assad will be sitting down at the negotiating table,” said Lavrov, adding that May 7 legislative polls showed that a majority still backed him.