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Turkey Says Syrian Plane Had Russian Weapons
October 12, 2012

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The Syrian plane escorted to the ground by Turkish fighter jets was carrying Russian-made weapons bound for Syria, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said.

The Airbus A-320, which was inspected on the ground in Ankara, Turkey's capital, and allowed to continue on to Syria, was originally cleared, with an announcement from the Turkish government that no suspicious cargo was found but that communications equipment had been held back for further inspection.

The governments of Syria and Russia denied Erdogan's charge, with Russia saying that the cargo was not of Russian origin and Syria saying that the cargo was civilian electrical equipment.

The original action was the result of intelligence from a government source. Turkish air patrols initially ordered the pilot to turn black while over the Black Sea, but the pilot refused, insisting that it was on a civilian mission to Damascus, the Syrian capital. Turkey then scrambled two fighter planes to intercept. The mission was though to be suspicious as well because the plane, which normally seats close to 200, had only 30 passengers and two crew onboard.

The Turkish government said that it would stop other Syrian planes using its airspace and instructed Turkish planes to avoid Syrian airspace.

Turkey had earlier beefed up its military presence along its 560-mile southern border with Syria, after repeated mortar attacks across the border. Erdogan recently received the backing of NATO if cross-border provocations continued.

The events heightened tensions between Russia and Turkey. Russian President Vladimir Putin canceled a visit to Ankara.






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