Turkey grounds another plane heading to Syria amid tensions

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BEIRUT -- A plane headed from Armenia to Syria was grounded Monday at an airport in Turkey, less than a week after the country intercepted another Syria-bound plane.

The plane, described as being on a civilian humanitarian aid mission, was grounded in the eastern province of Erzurum in order for its cargo to be examined, according to Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency.

It was headed to the besieged city of Aleppo, which has been the site of clashes between rebels and government forces since July and a regular target of government helicopters and fighter jets, leaving many parts of the city destroyed.

Turkish authorities will examine part of the plane’s cargo and if it does not violate civilian aviation rules, the aircraft will be allowed to continue to Aleppo, the news agency reported.


A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Turkey granted the plane permission to fly through its airspace only on condition it could search its cargo for possible military equipment, the Associated Press reported.

On Wednesday, a passenger plane heading from Moscow to Damascus was forced to land amid suspicion that it was carrying weapons for the regime of President Bashar Assad. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the plane was carrying Russian munitions.

On Saturday, Turkey announced that it was closing its airspace to Syrian civilian flights. Earlier, it had barred Syrian military flights from flying over Turkey.

As tensions between Turkey and Syria continued to escalate, U.N. envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi was in Iran to meet with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad regarding the ongoing Syrian conflict.

Brahimi appealed for Iran’s help in achieving a ceasefire between Assad’s loyalist forces and rebel fighters for the upcoming Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Adha, which will fall around Oct. 25. It is an appeal unlikely to succeed as previous calls for a ceasefire have been ignored by the Syrian government.

‘If Syria disintegrates, the sectarian and tribal wars will spread in Syria and spill over to the region and to neighboring countries,’ Brahimi said, according to the official Iranian Students’ News Agency. ‘So it is necessary to come to an understanding and finish this dire situation in Syria.’


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-- Times staff in Beirut and Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran