World Bulletin / News Desk
Turkish and Russian authorities have been in secret talks over the possible return of the cargo seized when Turkey intercepted a Damascus-bound plane on suspicion that it was carrying ammunition from Russia to Syria, a news report has said.
The report, published in Russian daily Kommersant, said Russian officials want the cargo to be returned to the Russian defense company Konstruktorskoe Byuro Priborostroeniya (KBP). “Otherwise, you can't call this act nothing but usurpation,” a military official was quoted as saying.
Russian foreign ministry officials talking to the newspaper, however, said they were not hopeful that the talks would produce a positive result. One official emphasized that Turkish authorities had refused to give the Syrian pilot of the plane a document certifying the seizure of the cargo despite repeated requests from the pilot.
A Syrian Air Airbus A320 travelling from Moscow to Syria's capital was intercepted by F16 jets as it entered Turkish airspace and escorted to Ankara's Esenboğa Airport early this month after Turkey received intelligence that it was carrying military supplies destined for Syria's defense ministry. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has conceded that Turkey has the right, under the Chicago Convention, to force a plane to land on suspicion that the plane may contain military equipment, even though he says the plane's cargo, which he said consisted of radar parts, was legitimate.
Lavrov has recently insisted the shipment of "electric equipment for radars" was a legitimate cargo that complied with international law, but he added that it was of "dual purpose," meaning it could have civilian and military applications.
Turkey, on the other hand, insists that the cargo consists of military equipment and defends the interception of the plane and seizure of its cargo. “In violation of international law and considering that we wouldn't be able to detect it, you load a civilian plane with military equipment and attempt to fly it over us. We are sure to force that plane to land,” Ahmet Davutoğlu said last week.
The plane incident has caused new tensions between Turkey and Russia, two countries that have been carefully trying to prevent their bilateral ties from being affected by disagreements over Syria. Turkey is a staunch critic of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and supports the opposition bent on overthrowing him, while Russia remains a backer of the Assad regime.
The Kommersant report also said the Russian authorities believe that the Syrian side is to be blamed for the leak regarding the plane's cargo. Russian internal intelligence authorities have been investigating the origin of the leak but officials talking to Kommersant said they were confident that no Russian institution had anything to do with the leak. “It's probably the Syrian side's fault,” said one official.
Turkey said it had grounded the plane after receiving a tipoff about its cargo but refused to say where the intelligence came from. Last weekend, The Washington Post, citing anonymous officials, said US intelligence agencies were the source of the tip that led the Turkish military to intercept and ground a Syrian passenger plane.Last Mod: 30 Ekim 2012, 18:01