UK & World News
Putin Postpones Turkey Trip Amid Syria Tensions
Russia's President Vladimir Putin has postponed next week's scheduled trip to Turkey without offering a reason for the delay.
It comes amid diplomatic tension between Moscow and Ankara over Russia's support for the flagging Syrian regime.
Russia is one of President Bashar al Assad's closest remaining allies and has blocked tougher UN resolutions against Damascus.
Turkey seized "illegal cargo" from a Syrian passenger plane after fighter jets were scrambled to force a Damascus-bound Airbus A-320 to land.
The plane, with around 30 passengers, was suspected of carrying military equipment from Moscow.
But it was allowed to continue its journey after some of its cargo was confiscated. It is unclear exactly what was alleged to have been aboard, or what has been seized.
"There is illegal cargo on the plane that should have been reported," Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.
Turkey's NTV news channel said it was believed to be missile parts, while state-run TRT channel speculated it could be communications equipment.
The Russian embassy in Ankara contacted the government, demanding an explanation for the forced landing, saying it had put the lives of passengers at risk.
Following the forced landing in Ankara, Turkey warned its airline companies against using Syrian airspace to avoid a possible retaliation.
The warning briefly interrupted Turkish air traffic, with planes changing routes to avoid the Syrian skies.
More than 18 months into the battle for Syria, an estimated 30,000 people are dead and the country is still locked in civil war.
Tensions between Turkey and Syria have been running high in recent days, with sporadic fire exchanges at the border since last Wednesday.
Last week, a Syrian shell hit a Turkish border town, killing five civilians - two women and three children.
The deadly incident triggered retaliation fire from Turkish artillery units at the border, which has been increasingly fortified by scores of anti-aircraft batteries since the shelling.
It also brought on a parliamentary mandate, which is valid for one year, allowing the government to authorise cross-border operations in Syria, and to be used "if needed".
A week ago, Syria stopped purchasing electricity from its neighbour. Turkish energy minister Taner Yildiz said it was due to the "destruction of the Syrian power distribution system".
"Our sales will resume once the problem is solved. We are ready to provide them with power supplies whenever they want," he said. Turkey supplies around 20% of Syria's power.
Turkey said on Wednesday it would not hesitate to respond if it was struck again by its neighbour.
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