UK & World News
Russia Claims Seized Jet Had No Weapons
A Syrian plane grounded by Turkey earlier this week had no weapons on board, according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
The flight from Moscow to Damascus was intercepted by Turkish fighter jets, escorted to the ground before authorities seized "illegal cargo" from the Airbus A-320.
It was then allowed to continue its flight with 30 passengers on board.
But Mr Lavrov said on Friday the flight was carrying a legal cargo of equipment for radar stations.
He said: "This cargo is electrical technical equipment for radar stations, this is dual-purpose equipment but is not forbidden by an international conventions."
It comes after Turkey sent fighter planes to its border with Syria after a Syrian military helicopter bombed the pro-rebel town of Azmarin.
There has been intense fighting between rebels and Syrian government forces this week in Azmarin and neighbouring towns, an area strongly opposed to President Bashar al Assad's rule.
"The fighter jet took off from Diyarbakir base in the south east after regime forces sent a helicopter to shell Azmarin which was seized by rebel forces," an official told the AFP news agency.
Shells fired onto the town from surrounding hills sent thick plumes of smoke and dust rising into the air during the fighting on Thursday.
A voice amplified through loudspeakers, audible from the village of Hacipasa in Turkey's Hatay province, called on rebel fighters to surrender, warning of an air assault.
Fighting along Turkey's 560-mile border with Syria has repeatedly spilled over into Turkish territory in the past week, with its army responding in kind to gunfire and mortar shells fired from Syria.
Turkey's chief of staff General Necdet Ozel said on Wednesday that his troops would respond "with greater force" if the shells continued to land on Turkish soil.
Last week its parliament authorised the deployment of troops beyond Turkey, heightening fears that Syria's civil war would drag in regional powers.