Turkish air force jets forced a Syrian 35-passenger Airbus A320 bound from Moscow to Damascus to land in Ankara Wednesday night, Oct. 10, on suspicion it was carrying arms. Its cargo compartment was subjected to checks by Turkish officials. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu spoke of information that it may be carrying “certain equipment in breach of civil aviation rules.”
At the same time, the Turkish foreign ministry released this statement: “All civilian flights in Syrian airspace have been stopped since it is not safe.” TRT television said a Turkish plane that had already taken off for Saudi Arabia made a detour and landed at a Turkish airport.
DEBKAfile’s military sources: By forcing down the Syrian airbus, Ankara has signaled Damascus that it will henceforth stop civilian air traffic flying through Syrian air space. There is still a question about whether Turkey will extend this aerial blockade to Syrian military air traffic. Furthermore, Iranian civilian aircraft have been running an almost daily airlift of military and logistical equipment from Tehran to Damascus. The new Turkish step, to which Damascus has not yet responded, may portend a clash between Turkey and Iran in the skies over Syria.
Our sources add: The Erdogan government, in defiance of the Obama administration’s wishes, looks like moving towards imposing its own unilateral protected no-fly zone over Syria to break out of the stalemate of the 18-month civil war.