Turkey grounds Armenian plane in growing de facto air blockade of Syria
A week after raising Russian ire by grounding a plane traveling from Russia to Syria, Turkey grounded an Armenian airliner – this time in a routine check arranged in a recently inked agreement.
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Arthur Bright is the Europe Editor at The Christian Science Monitor. He has worked for the Monitor in various capacities since 2004, including as the Online News Editor and a regular contributor to the Monitor's Terrorism & Security blog. He is also a licensed Massachusetts attorney.
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A week after Turkey forced down a Syrian passenger jet allegedly carrying illegal cargo, irking Russia and Syria, Turkey has brought down an Armenian aircraft for inspection in an apparent expansion of a de facto air blockade of Syria from the north.
The Turkish deputy prime minister said today that the Armenian plane, which was reportedly carrying humanitarian aid, passed inspection and was allowed to continue on to Syria, reports Reuters. Unlike the earlier Syrian flight from Moscow, Armenian officials had been informed ahead of time that the aircraft would be subject to inspection, Turkish officials told Reuters. Armenian officials confirmed this to news agency Armenpress.
The plane's grounding appears to be part of an expansion of Turkish efforts to do what it can to prevent weapons from reaching the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Over the weekend, Turkey and Syria each banned the other's aircraft from its own airspace.
Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News reports that Armenia and Turkey previously agreed that Armenia would provide humanitarian aid for Syria as long as it allowed Turkey to do a routine security check on every Syria-bound Armenian plane (the most direct flight path between Armenia and Syria passes over eastern Turkey). Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tigran Balayan said the grounding was "nothing extraordinary."
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also slammed the United Nations Security Council over the weekend for failing to act on the Syrian crisis in accord with what he says is the world's popular will, writes The Guardian. Mr. Erdogan said that if the council was unable to reach agreement on what to do about Syria because of the opposition of one or two parties to intervention – a thinly veiled reference to Russia and China, which have both vetoed previous Security Council resolutions on Syria – the body should be reformed.