Turkey intercepts Syrian plane as tensions mount

ANKARA — Turkish jets on Wednesday forced a Syrian passenger plane to land at Ankara airport on suspicion that it might be carrying weapons or other military equipment, amid heightened tensions between Turkey and Syria that have sparked fears of a wider regional conflict.

The Syrian Air jetliner was traveling from Moscow when it was intercepted by American supplied F16 jets as it entered Turkish airspace and was escorted to the capital's Esenboga Airport, the state-run TRT television reported.

Hours later, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the Airbus A320 with 37 passengers and crew would be allowed to leave, but its cargo had been confiscated.

"There are elements ... that are not legitimate in civilian flights," the state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Davutoglu as saying. He did not provide details but said authorities continued to examine the cargo.

Davutoglu earlier told Turkey's TGRT television that the plane was intercepted on suspicion it was carrying illicit cargo to Damascus.

"If equipment is being carried under the guise of civilian flights or if they are not being declared, then of course we'll inspect it," he said.

"We are determined to stop the flow of weapons to a regime that carries out such ruthless massacres," Davutoglu added. "We cannot accept that our air space be used for such aims."

Hurriyet newspaper's website, citing unidentified intelligence officials, said communications equipment, wireless sets and jammers were found on board. NTV television reported that authorities found "missile parts."

Syrian Information Minister Omran Zuabi declined comment.

SUB-CONTRACTOR OF THE WEST: The leader of the main Turkish opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) says Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the sub-contractor of the Western hegemonic powers.

“The CHP advocates Turkey’s interests in international platforms. Those who portray our policy as being against Turkey’s national interests are the sub-contractors of Western hegemonic powers,” Kemal Kilicdaroglu was quoted as saying by the Turkish Hurriyet Daily. 

“They [the Turkish government] are pursuing policies against national interests by sub-contracting,” Kilicdaroglu added.

Kilicdaroglu made the comments on July 11 in response to Erdogan’s criticism of the CHP attitude regarding a Turkish F-4 Phantom that was shot down by Syria in June. 

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