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Nation/World

October 12, 2012

Turkey: Syrian plane was carrying ammunition

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“As you will appreciate, those who gave the tip, which establishments, these things cannot be disclosed,” he said.

The United States said it backed Turkey’s decision to intercept the plane.

“Any transfer of any military equipment to the Syrian regime at this time is very concerning, and we look forward to hearing more from the Turkish side when they get to the bottom of what they found,” said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

She declined to comment on Turkish reports that the intelligence on the plane’s cargo had come from the United States.

Turkey has called for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down and Damascus accusing Turkey of supporting the rebels. The two neighbors have traded artillery fire over Syria’s northern border throughout the past week.

Hours before the Turkish statement, Russian Ambassador Vladimir Ivanovsky had held talks with Turkish officials at the Foreign Ministry.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich had said earlier Thursday that Moscow was concerned that lives and safety of the 35 passengers, including 17 Russian citizens, had been endangered.

He said Turkey without explanation denied Russian consular officials and a doctor access to the passengers, who had not been allowed into the airport for eight hours or provided with food.

“The Russian side continues to insist on an explanation for the Turkish authorities’ actions toward Russian citizens and on the adoption of measures to avoid such incidents in the future,” Lukashevich said in a statement.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that the pilot of the Syrian Air plane from Moscow had been warned of Turkey’s intention to ground it as he approached from the Black Sea on Wednesday evening. It said he was given the chance to turn back, but that he decided to continue his course.

Rejecting claims that passengers were ill-treated, the Turkish statement said they were allowed to leave the plane if they wanted and that there was a medical crew and ambulances on standby. It also said that the pilot did not provide a passenger list and therefore Turkish officials did not know there were Russians on board until after it landed.

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