Minister says the passenger aircraft intercepted en route from Moscow to Damascus was carrying “objectionable cargo”.
A Syrian plane carrying roughly 30 passengers has been allowed to leave Turkey after it was grounded for over eight hours on Wednesday.
Turkey said it seized “objectionable cargo” aboard a Syrian passenger plane it intercepted en route from Moscow to Damascus.
The A-320 plane was escorted on Wednesday evening by two Turkish jets to Ankara’s Esenboga Airport, officials and news reports say.
The move marks a new deterioration in relations between Turkey and Syria, already heightened by days of cross-border shelling.
“There is illegal cargo on the plane that should have been reported” in line with civil aviation regulations, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was quoted as saying by
“There are elements on board that can be considered objectionable,” he added, without elaborating.
The confiscated cargo might be missile parts, Turkish NTV news channel reported.
Earlier, Davutoglu said that the plane was forced to land because of information that it may be carrying “non-civilian cargo”.
Russia, from where the Syrian plane took off, is one of the closest allies of the Syrian government and has blocked several UN resolutions against Damascus.
“Once a week a Syrian Airlines airplane flies from Moscow bound for Damascus,” Interfax quoted Vnukovo Airport spokeswoman Yelena Krylova as saying. “The plane took off normally, there were no incidents.”
Syrian airspace ‘unsafe’
In a related development, Turkish authorities declared Syrian airspace to be “unsafe” and were stopping Turkish aircraft from flying over the war torn country.
TRT said a Turkish plane that had already taken off for Saudi Arabia made a detour and landed at a Turkish airport on Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, Turkey’s military chief pledged to respond with more force to any further shelling from Syria, keeping up the pressure on its southern neighbour a day after NATO said it stood ready to defend Turkey.
General Necdet Ozel was inspecting troops who have been put on alert along the 910km-border with Syria after a week of cross-border artillery and mortar exchanges that have sparked fears of a wider regional conflict.
Turkey has reinforced the border with artillery guns and also deployed more fighter jets to an airbase close to the border region after shelling from Syria killed five Turkish civilians last week.
“We responded and if [the shelling] continues, we will respond with more force,” the private Dogan news agency quoted Ozel as saying during a visit to the town of Akcakale.
Meanwhile, battles between government forces and opposition fighters continued across Syria on Wednesday.
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, urged the Assad’s regime to declare a unilateral ceasefire, calls which Syria rejected.
Hillary Mann Leverett, senior foreign policy lecturer at the American University in Washington DC, told Al Jazeera that the “increasingly militarised” tensions between Turkey and Syria is “very, very destabilising”, with potential for NATO to get involved.
“The precedent is certainly there. NATO got involved pretty quickly in Libya, and the plans are there to become involved in Syria,” said Mann Leverett.
“The United States has deployed what it calls advisers, basically a military unit, to Jordan,” she added.
The uprising in Syria started in March last year and has claimed about 30,000 lives, according to the opposition.
Anatolia news agency following security checks on the aircraft’s cargo.