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12 Oct, 2012 15:10

No weapons on Syrian plane grounded by Turkey – Lavrov

Russia’s foreign minister claimed the Syrian passenger plane Turkey diverted on Wednesday was carrying radar parts, not munitions. The confiscated cargo was being transported legally, Sergey Lavrov said Friday.

"We have no secrets," Lavrov told reporters. "There were, of course, no weapons on the plane and could not have been any. There was a cargo on the plane that a legal Russian supplier was sending in a legal way to a legal customer."Lavrov said the supplier will demand the cargo be returned which is their property.“We are awaiting an official reply why our diplomats were not allowed to meet the Russian passengers on board,” stressed the Russian FM.

The announcement came in response to a Thursday statement made by Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan alleging that the Syrian Air jet was transporting Russian-made munitions for the Syrian Defense Ministry.“It is absolutely clear who sent the cargo and who was going to receive it. This was munitions from the Russian equivalent of our Mechanical and Chemical Industry Corporation being sent to the Syrian Defense Ministry," Erdogan said.Turkey diverted the passenger plane en route to Damascus from Moscow on Wednesday as it entered Turkish airspace, forcing it to land in Ankara and open its cargo to inspection. “The pilot made the decision to land [in Ankara] as he knew he was not transporting anything illegal,” Lavrov remarked Friday.The Russian FM said Turkey offered the pilot the option to either turn back to Russia or land in Turkey for inspection. Earlier, however, the crew had been reported to have received no warning from Ankara, which allegedly dispatched F-16 jet fighters with no questions asked. After around nine hours at the Turkish airport, with passengers barred from leaving the plane, some items from the cargo hold were confiscated and the jet was allowed to continue on to Damascus.Moscow criticized Turkey for endangering the lives of the flight’s 35 passengers by dispatching F-16s to force the plane to land, and demanded to know why Russian diplomats and doctors were not allowed to meet the 17 Russian nationals on board.Witnesses also told RT that Turkish officials had demanded people on board sign papers stating that the jet had made an emergency landing. Guards are reported to have beated up a crew member and several passengers who refused.Syria labeled the incident "air piracy," and insisted that there was not carrying anything illegal.