Turkish fighter jets have forced a Syria-bound civilian airplane heading to Damascus from Moscow to land in the Turkish capital Ankara.
The Airbus A320 was intercepted by Turkish F-16 jets late on Wednesday as it entered the country’s airspace.
The plane, reportedly carrying 35 passengers onboard, was then escorted to Ankara’s Esenboga Airport.
Questioned by Turkey’s state-run TRT television in Athens, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that the plane was grounded because of information that it may be carrying “certain equipment in breach of civil aviation rules.”
Meanwhile, Turkish authorities have declared the Syrian airspace to be unsafe and were stopping Turkish aircraft from flying over the country.
The plane incident comes amid intensified tensions between Ankara and Damascus, and a step-up in Turkey’s war rhetoric against its Arab neighbor.
The border tensions soared on October 3 after Syrian mortar shells landed in Turkey’s border town of Akcakale, leaving five people dead.
Ankara promptly responded with retaliatory fire that continued through the next days, and Turkish lawmakers also authorized the government to use military force against Syria when it deemed necessary.
Many people have been killed since the Syrian unrest started in March 2011.
Damascus says ‘outlaws, saboteurs, and armed terrorists’ are the driving factor behind the unrest and deadly violence.
The Syrian government says the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country and accuses Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey of arming the opposition.
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