Russia Protests Turkey Grounding Plane

Moscow expressed a thinly veiled protest on Thursday over the grounding of a passenger plane on a Moscow-Damascus flight.

On Wednesday, Turkish F-16 fighter jets forced down the Syrian Air Airbus A320, which was flying from Moscow to Damascus, over suspicions it had prohibited cargo on board.

“We are concerned that the life and security of the passengers, including 17 Russian nationals, was endangered in that situation,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said.

He said Turkey had not provided notification there were Russians on board.

“We learned that from the electronic media,” Lukashevich said.

In addition, Turkish authorities denied Russian embassy officials and doctors access to the Russians, who were also not provided with any food for eight hours, he continued.

“Russia insists on an explanation of such behavior with regard to the Russian citizens and demands that measures be taken to prevent any such incidents happening in the future,” the spokesman said.

Following the plane incident, Syrian Ambassador to Moscow Riad Haddad visited the Russian Foreign Ministry on Thursday.

It is not known yet exactly who he met there or what was discussed.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Air Force has received orders to intercept any Turkish planes in Syrian airspace, the Lebanese newspaper Addiyar reported.

The order was issued “in response to the grounding of the Syrian plane in Turkey.”

For its part, Turkey prohibited its planes from crossing the Syrian border, the paper said.

Turkey eventually permitted the A320 to resume its flight.

Permission was issued after a five-hour inspection of the aircraft that resulted in the seizure of items from the cargo it carried. Some Turkish media reports stated that there were parts for radio stations used for military purposes, while Turkey’s NTV television network said there was an object that could be a part of a missile.

Tensions between Turkey and Syria boiled over late last Wednesday when a mortar round apparently fired from Syria killed five civilians in the Turkish border town of Akcakale.

Turkey responded with artillery strikes against targets in violence-wracked Syria and the Turkish parliament authorized the government to order more strikes as necessary.

Although Damascus apologized for the incident, Turkish and Syrian artillery exchanged fire a number of times over the ensuing six days.


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