Ankara has placed a ban on Syrian Airlines flying into Turkish airspace, after a diplomatic row that began when Turkey seized cargo from a Syrian civilian plane it forced to land in Ankara. Earlier, Damascus closed its airspace to Turkish airlines.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said his country had made the decision because the Syrian regime, which is battling an insurgency, was "abusing'' civilian flights by transporting military equipment.
Syria's foreign ministry has announced that the ban takes effect at midnight on Saturday, responding to Turkey’s threats of grounding Syrian civilian planes if military cargo is suspected to be onboard.
Turkey diverted the passenger, which was plane en route to Damascus from Moscow, on Wednesday as it entered Turkish airspace, forcing it to land in Ankara for a cargo inspection. After over nine hours on the tarmac, during which the passengers were not allowed to leave the plane, Turkish authorities confiscated some of the cargo. Before the plane was cleared to continue on to Syria, law enforcement agents abused passengers and crew, forcing them to sign papers stating that the incident was due to an emergency landing executed by the pilot, according to witness accounts.
Moscow harshly criticized Turkey for endangering the lives of the flight’s passengers by using F-16 fighter jets to force the plane to land, and demanded to know why Russian diplomats and doctors were not allowed to meet the 17 Russian nationals on board.
On Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that the plane was carrying legal radar parts, not munitions.
"We have no secrets," Lavrov told reporters. "There were, of course, no weapons on the plane and could not have been any. There was cargo on the plane that a legal Russian supplier was sending in a legal way to a legal customer."
The announcement came in response to a statement made by Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan, alleging that theSyrian Air jet was transporting Russian-made weapons for use by the Syrian Defense Ministry.
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