14 October 2012, 11:55

Turkish Navy put on high alert

Turkish Navy put on high alert

Turkey has put its naval taskforce in the Mediterranean on high alert and sent missile-carrying frigates and motor boats to Aksaz, Iskenderun, Mersin, Antalya and other naval bases, the Hurriyet newspaper reports. Earlier, a higher state of alert was announced in the Air Force.

The move came amid a fresh escalation of tension in the Turkish-Syrian relations. A few days ago, Turkey scrambled its jet fighters to force a Damascus-bound Syrian passenger plane to land in Ankara. It cited intelligence reports that the plane might be carrying suspicious cargo. But no cargo prohibited by international conventions was found aboard.

Syria retaliated for the incident by shutting its airspace for Turkish planes.

Syria bans Turkey civilian flights over its territory

Syria has closed its airspace to Turkish passenger flights.

The move comes just days after Turkey intercepted a Syrian flight, claiming the plane was carrying Russian-made munitions for the Syrian army.

Syria's foreign ministry announced on state TV that that the ban would take effect from midnight on Saturday.

Syria's foreign ministry said the decision to ban Turkish flights in its airspace was in retaliation for a similar move from Ankara.

The Turkish authorities insist they had not closed their country’s airspace to Syrian planes but promised to intercept suspect airliners in future.

Voice of Russia, RIA, BBC

Syria-Turkish conflict threatens to run out of control

The Syrian fighting threatens to cross the Turkish border and to spread into a wider regional conflict. In the Syrian settlement of Azmarin on the border with Turkey the rebels seized a tank and opened fire at units of the Syrian governmental troops.

The army attacked the rebels’ positions from air. Turkey scrambled two of its jet fighters to prevent a possible violation of the frontier by Syrian planes. In order not to provoke an incident the Syrian aviation left the air space near the borderline.

Although this flash of tension did not cause the violation of the Syrian border by the Turkish aviation and Syrian shells exploding on the Turkish territory, the possibility of a “front crash” is growing. Pulling of the Turkish troops on the Syrian border is obviously instigating tough response from Syria. Only in the last two days 60 units of armor and artillery were deployed in the area. There are 250 tanks which are ready to open fire and 25 F-16 jet fighters that are ready to take off.

Amid tensions between Damascus and Ankara an unpleasant incident took place with a plane, which was flying from Moscow to Damascus. Turkish jet fighters forced the Russian plane to land in the airport of Ankara on suspicion of carrying weapons.

Did Turkey have any judicial grounds to force the civil plane, which carries out regular flights and has all the licenses for flying over the Turkish territory, to land? Here is a comment from political analyst Vyacheslav Matuzov.

"I consulted the International air laws and found out that in general Turkey has the right to act in compliance with its national legislation but there are also rules for international flights used by the International Civil Aviation Association (ICAO). They envisage open air space and freedom of air navigation between all countries but this question requires a final juridical solution. That is why Turkey formally had the right to force any aircraft to land on its territory if there were suspicions that it could threaten its security."

Meanwhile there is no confirmation that there were weapons onboard the plane, Igor Korotchenko, chairman of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Public Council under says.

"If there is material evidence they don’t hide it but show it right away. The case in point is very unclear. They have confiscated something and will check it. That is why I see Turkey’s action as a planned provocation. In fact this is an act of international air piracy. Turkey had absolutely no grounds to act like this. Moreover, Syria is not subject to the UN Security Council’s sanctions. Moreover, NATO has not imposed any unilateral sanctions either. Turkey’s actions are absolutely illegitimate."

After the incident some mass media and politicians accused Russia of supplying weapons to Syria. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that such statements were groundless.

"There weren’t any weapons on board of the plane and could not be. The plane was carrying the cargo one legal Russian supplier sent to its legal customer. It was electronic equipment for radar station. This equipment has dual purpose but it is not banned by any international conventions."

It is common practice when civil aircraft transports such cargos, and all the necessary documents were issued, the minister added.

The expert of the Institute of Oriental Studies Vladimir Isayev says this incident is a rather dangerous precedent for the global comunity.

"If every country which suspects another country of any negative actions starts to force civil planes to land this will cause chaos in the air space and air navigation. Such incidents must be seriously discussed on the level of international organizations such as the ICAO and the UN to avoid repetitions."

Political analyst Boris Dolgov says that the incident with the plane should be considered in the context of the Turkish- Syrian relations.

"This incident is part of Turkey’s policy towards Syria. This implies the support of illegal insurgent groups which are active in Syria and spread terror among the civil population. Turkey houses camps where so-called rebels are trained by Turkish servicemen. Weapons for Syrian insurgents are smuggled across the Turkish-Syrian border. In other words it continues the policy aimed at overwhelming the regime of Bashar Assad. That is the main cause behind the growing tension on the border including the incident with the plane."

The situation is threatening to run out of control, expert Vladimir Isayev says.

"Turkey and Syria are rolling down to direct confrontation. I fear that large scale military actions between the regular armies of the two countries are round the corner if the situation is not changed."

Next week Lakhar Brahimi, special envoy of the UN and Arab League is to visit Damascus and Ankara in an attempt to reconcile the hostile parties and not to let a new local war break out.

Konstantin Garibov

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