Turkey defends action over plane amid row with Syria and Russia

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Turkey defends action over plane amid row with Syria and Russia

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Turkey’s government insists it had every right to intercept a Syrian passenger plane, forced to land in Ankara on its way from Moscow to Damascus.

The episode has opened a diplomatic row on two fronts for the Turkish government – with both Russia and Syria.

Ankara claims the Airbus A-320 aircraft was carrying an illegal cargo.

Unconfirmed reports in Turkish media say the contents included missile parts or military communications equipment.

“Under the rules of civil aviation – according to international agreements and our own national laws – under no condition can planes carry military communications equipment or any kind of weapons,” said Turkey’s Transport Minister Binali Yildirim.

Turkey claims the aircraft’s pilot failed to co-operate with Turkish authorities, refusing an offer to turn back to Moscow and to give information about the plane and those on board.

Russia’s ambassador in Turkey was summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry for an explanation.

However, Moscow wants answers itself. It accuses Ankara of putting passengers’ lives in danger by scrambling fighter planes to escort the Airbus jet to the Turkish capital.

Syria and Russia insist that the cargo was legitimate.

Seven hours after landing in Ankara, the plane with its 37 passengers and crew was allowed to fly on to Damascus.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said Ankara is determined to stop weapons being flown to Syria over its airspace, and will continue to investigate Syrian passenger planes.

Turkey imposed an arms embargo on Syria last year.