Russian arms export official says that no arms found on Syrian plane intercepted by Turkish warplanes [updated]
There were no weapons on board a passenger aircraft that was intercepted by Turkish fighters while heading from Moscow to Damascus on Wednesday, a high-ranking representative of a Russian weapons export organization told Interfax-AVN on condition of anonymity on Thursday.
"There were and could not have been any weapons, or systems, or military hardware equipment on board the passenger plane," he said.
Russia did not suspend military-technological cooperation with Syria, the Interfax source said. "If it had been necessary to ship any military hardware or weapons to Syria, this would have been done through the established procedure rather than in an illegal way, not to mention using a civilian aircraft," he said.
It was reported earlier that Turkish Air Force fighters forced a Syrian passenger plane heading for Damascus from Moscow to land in Ankara on Wednesday evening. Different reports said the plane was carrying from 25 to 35 passengers.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the plane was forced to land to inspect what it was carrying on board, saying that some information indicated that the plane might have been carrying cargo violating civil aviation regulations.
Turkish media reported later that communication equipment, radio receivers, and jamming stations had been found on board the plane. These items were confiscated, after which the plane was allowed to continue its flight.
Russia demands explanations from Turkey with regard to the incident with the Syrian passenger plane.
"Russia insists that the Turkish authorities must explain their conduct regarding the Russian citizens and prevent similar incidents in the future," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a commentary released on Thursday.
The Russian Embassy in Ankara demanded access to the Russian citizens; consulate workers and a doctor were sent to the airport.
"Yet the Turkish authorities denied without explanations and in violation of the bilateral consular convention a meeting of the diplomats with the Russian citizens, who had been barred from the airport terminal for eight hours but sporadically allowed to stand on the tarmac," Lukashevich said.
"No food was supplied either," he said.