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Turkey: Syria Plane Was Carrying Russian-Made Munitions

  • RFE/RL

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has said a Syrian passenger plane forced to land in Ankara was carrying equipment and ammunition destined for Syria's Defense Ministry.
Turkish authorities ordered the Syrian Air passenger plane, which was traveling from Moscow to Damascus, to land late on October 10 after receiving an intelligence tip-off.
Speaking to reporters in Ankara, Erdogan said, "These were equipment and ammunitions that were being sent from a Russian the Syrian Defense Ministry."
The Turkish prime minister added that the seized cargo's "examination is continuing and the necessary [action] will follow."
Erdogan's comments followed a strong denial by Syria that anything illegal had been aboard the Airbus A320.
The director of Syrian Arab Airlines, Ghaida Abdulatif, said the airliner had no prohibited cargo on board.

"When they inspected the plane, they found civil parcels, electronic equipment that is allowed to be transferred and it was officially registered. More then one person was physically and psychologically abused," Abdulatif said.
Turkish media reports said on October 11 that there were 10 containers aboard the plane, whose contents included radio receivers, antennas, and other military equipment.
The Syrian government, whose relations with neighboring Turkey have plummeted over the Syrian war, said the action amounted to an act of piracy.
The plane, and its 37 passengers and crew, were allowed to leave Ankara after part of its cargo was seized.
Earlier on October 11, Turkish officials rejected claims by Syria's ally Russia that Turkey had endangered the lives of Russian citizens on board the aircraft.
Russia's Foreign Ministry has demanded an explanation from Ankara for detaining the plane, saying that 17 of its nationals onboard were refused access to Russian diplomatic staff.
The ministry declined immediate comment on the reports about military equipment being found on the plane, but its arms export agency Rosoboronexport, said earlier it had no cargo on the flight.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had been expected to visit Turkey at the start of next week but Turkish officials said hours before the plane was grounded that Russia had requested the visit be postponed, citing his heavy work schedule.
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov was asked if the postponement was linked to the grounding. Peskov said Putin and Erdogan had discussed a new date by phone on October 8, two days before the incident, and December 3 was the likely new date for the visit.

With reporting by Interfax, Anatolia, Reuters, and AP