Turkish air force jets forced a Syrian 35-passenger Airbus A320 bound from Moscow to Damascus to land in Ankara Wednesday night, Oct. 10, on suspicion it was carrying arms. Its cargo compartment was subjected to checks by Turkish officials. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu spoke of information that it may be carrying "certain equipment in breach of civil aviation rules."
At the same time, the Turkish foreign ministry released this statement: "All civilian flights in Syrian airspace have been stopped since it is not safe.” TRT television said a Turkish plane that had already taken off for Saudi Arabia made a detour and landed at a Turkish airport.
debkafile’s military sources: By forcing down the Syrian airbus, Ankara has signaled Damascus that it will henceforth stop civilian air traffic flying through Syrian air space. There is still a question about whether Turkey will extend this aerial blockade to Syrian military air traffic. Furthermore, Iranian civilian aircraft have been running an almost daily airlift of military and logistical equipment from Tehran to Damascus. The new Turkish step, to which Damascus has not yet responded, may portend a clash between Turkey and Iran in the skies over Syria.
Our sources add: The Erdogan government, in defiance of the Obama administration’s wishes, looks like moving towards imposing its own unilateral protected no-fly zone over Syria to break out of the stalemate of the 18-month civil war.
They do not rule out the possibility that more anti-Assad governments, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Persian Gulf emirates may send air strength to back up Turkey’s opening move.
To discuss this, Saudi Intelligence Chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan paid an unannounced visit to Doha and went straight into a meeting with the Qatari ruler, Emir al-Thani.
Stopping a Syrian plane from Moscow was also a Turkish message to the Russians to stay out of the conflict now in full spate between Ankara and Damascus and not interfere in any no-fly zone. The Russians have not so far commented on the incident.
For the past two days, Turkish Chief of Staff Gen. Ozel Necdet, has been touring his forces along the Syrian border to inspect their readiness for a full-scale clash with Syria. Military sources in Ankara also disclosed that at least 25 F16 fighter jets had been transferred to the Diyarbakir air base near the Syrian border.
It now transpires that this transfer was planned as part of the operation to close Syrian air space.
Earlier, Wednesday, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that American troops are helping build a headquarters in Jordan to bolster its military capabilities in case violence spills over from Syria.