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Armenian jet flies to Aleppo after Turkish checks

Armenian jet flies to Aleppo after Turkish checks
Armenian Cargo Aircraft being inspected at Erzurum Airport
Armenian Cargo Aircraft being inspected at Erzurum Airport

ANKARA — An Armenian plane carrying humanitarian aid to Syria’s battered second city of Aleppo took off again Monday after being made to land in eastern Turkey for a security check on its cargo, the Anatolia news agency reported.

Officials said no suspect cargo turned up during the stop in eastern Erzurum city, unlike last week when Turkey forced a Damascus-bound Syrian airliner from Moscow to land in Ankara, sparking tensions with Russia and Syria.

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc earlier said the cargo on the Armenian plane matched the manifest handed in by the crew prior to the flight but the security check showed “how well Turkey performed its duty.”

The Air Armenia cargo plane was required to stop over in Turkey for routine security checks in line with civil aviation rules as an unscheduled flight, a foreign ministry official told AFP earlier.

Armenia confirmed that the landing of the plane, which both countries said was carrying humanitarian aid, was pre-arranged.

On Wednesday Turkish jets forced a Syrian plane flying from Russia to land at Ankara airport because of what it called suspect cargo.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the cargo contained military equipment for the Syrian defence ministry, but Russia said it was dual-purpose radar equipment which was not banned by international conventions.

Turkey and Syria closed their airspaces to each other’s civilian flights at the weekend.

The Armenian plane was carrying aid as part of a campaign called “Help a Brother”, including foodstuffs, organiser Vahan Hovannisian, a lawmaker from the nationalist Armenian Dashnaktsutiun party, told AFP.

Syria has a small Armenian community of between 60,000 and 100,000 people, according to estimates, most of whom live in Aleppo.

Armenia also has close ties with Syria’s major ally Russia while its relations with Turkey have long been strained.

Turkey and Armenia have no diplomatic ties and their border has been closed for more than a decade.

Ankara has taken an increasingly strident line towards the regime in Damascus since a shell fired from the Syrian side of the border during fighting between government forces and rebels killed five Turkish civilians on October 3.

Copyright © 2012 AFP. All rights reserved.

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