UK & World News
Syrian Plane 'Carried Russian Munitions'
A Syrian plane forced to land in Ankara was carrying Russian-made munitions destined for Damascus, Turkey's Prime Minister has said.
Tayyip Erdogan said the cache was being carried on board a passenger plane from Moscow, which was forced to land in Ankara.
It's believed the arms were destined for Syria's defence ministry.
The Airbus A320, which had 37 passengers on board, was escorted to Ankara airport by F-16 fighter jets, where the Turkish authorities seized some of its cargo.
"We are determined to control weapons transfers to a regime that carries out such brutal massacres against civilians," said Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
None of the plane's passengers was arrested, and all were allowed to travel on to Syria.
The Syrian authorities said the plane was carrying civilian electrical equipment - and described the interception as an act of piracy.
Russia's ambassador to Turkey was also summoned to the country's foreign ministry after the forced landing.
The Russian government complained that the passengers were not given consular access, food or access to a doctor. It said in a statement that the lives and safety of the passengers had been placed under threat.
The incident is a ratcheting-up of regional tensions surrounding Syria's civil war. Russia is a long-term ally of Syria, and has backed the Assad regime in its bloody civil conflict with the country's opposition.
Russia and China have vetoed three UN Security Council resolutions which would have imposed sanctions against the Syrian government.
Turkey, which shares a 900 km-long border with Syria, has emerged as one of the Assad regime's fiercest critics, despite their close relationship prior to the Arab Spring.
Turkey openly backs the Syrian opposition, providing support for rebel fighters, and housing more than 80,000 registered Syrian refugees.
In recent weeks, Turkish border villages have been repeatedly hit by shells fired from Syria. Last week in the town of Akcakale a mortar bomb killed five civilians, including a mother and her three children.
The incident prompted the Turkish parliament to vote to authorise military action against Syria if necessary. The Turkish military has repeatedly fired back across the border in recent days.
Some fear that skirmishes on the border could escalate into a regional war, though any conflict with Syria would be deeply unpopular with the Turkish public, and Turkey's government has repeatedly said that it has no desire for an armed conflict with its neighbour.
But Turkish officials are clearly frustrated by their inability to prevent the chaos of Syria's conflict from spilling over its own borders.
In August the Turkish Foreign Minister said his country could take no more than 100,000 Syrian refugees, and called on the UN to set up new camps in a "safe haven" inside Syria.
However, it is unclear how such a safe haven could be established without a no-fly zone and greater international involvement in the Syrian civil war.
The United States, Britain and other Western powers have so far avoided direct intervention in the Syrian conflict, which opposition groups estimate has already cost more than 30,000 lives.