Syria, Turkey trade accusations over jet’s cargo
SYRIA: The war of words between Syria and Turkey escalated on
Thursday when Ankara said it had found military supplies on a passenger
plane it intercepted en route between Moscow and Damascus.
The Syrian foreign ministry accused Turkish Prime Minister Recep
Erdogan of lying after he said the jet had been carrying “equipment and
ammunition shipped to the Syrian defence ministry” from a Russian
France warned of the risks posed by the rising tensions between the
two neighbours, which have exchanged fire over their border in recent
days, amid fears that the Syrian civil war could ignite broader regional
Inside Syria, the fighting raged on, with least 87 Syrian soldiers
reported killed over the day, according to the Syrian Observatory for
Human Rights -- the heaviest military toll since the start of the
Syrian authorities challenged Erdogan to show the weapons he alleged
had been seized from the plane, which was intercepted by Turkish
fighters on Wednesday and forced to land for an inspection before being
allowed to fly on.
“The Turkish prime minister continues to lie in order to justify his
government’s hostile attitude towards Syria,” the Syrian foreign
ministry said in a statement.
“The plane did not carry ammunition or military equipment and
Erdogan’s comments lack credibility and he must show the equipment and
ammunition at least to his people,” the information ministry said.
Meanwhile, rebels fighting forces loyal to Syrian president Bashar
al-Assad won more territory as they bid to secure a “buffer zone” in a
swathe of land abutting the Turkish border, an AFP reporter said.
And in Damascus, a powerful blast rocked the military justice
building, the Observatory reported, in what state television said was a
UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, meanwhile, held talks
with officials in Saudi Arabia, which like Turkey has called for Assad
to quit and supports the rebels.
In the Red Sea city of Jeddah, Saudi deputy foreign minister Prince
Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah urged Brahimi to work for “an immediate halt to
the bloodshed of the Syrian people,” the Saudi news agency SPA reported.
In the plane incident, Ankara scrambled two jets on Wednesday to
force the Syrian Air airliner to land after receiving intelligence its
cargo did not comply with civil aviation rules, Turkish officials said.
The aircraft with 35 passengers on board was grounded for nine hours
before it was finally allowed to resume its journey to Damascus.
Damascus denounced the interception as “hostile and reprehensible...
another sign of the hostile policies of the Erdogan government, which
harbours (rebels) and bombs Syrian territory.” It demanded Turkey return
the cargo seized at Ankara’s Esenboga Airport.
“Turkish military aircraft... forced the plane to land without giving
prior warning. The military aircraft were so close that there could have
been an accident,” said Syrian Air director Aida Abdel Latif.
Russia, Syria’s ally and main arms supplier, also denounced Ankara.