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Turkey's prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses a forum in Istanbul. Turkey and Syria have each banned flights coming from the other country. AP
Middle East

Turkey, Syria ban flights to each other as tensions soar

Syria says it banned flights from Turkey “in accordance with the principle of reciprocity”.

SYRIA HAS BANNED Turkish flights from its airspace, with Turkey making a similar tit-for-tat move, as regime forces counter-attacked rebels to regain territory lost in northern battlegrounds.

The reprisal for Turkey confiscating a cargo of what Russia said was radar equipment being flown from Moscow to Damascus came despite a flurry of diplomacy intended to calm soaring tensions between the neighbours.

Syria accuses Turkey of channelling arms from Gulf Arab states to the rebels fighting government troops, who have been under mounting pressure across large swathes of the north, including in second city Aleppo.

The Syrian flight ban went into force from midnight local time (10pm Saturday, Irish time) “in accordance with the principle of reciprocity”, SANA state news agency said.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said later that Ankara had already banned Syrian civilian flights from its airspace.

“Yesterday (Saturday) we closed our airspace to Syrian civilian flights as we have previously done for Syrian military flights,” he said.

“As we have established that civilian flights were being misused by the Syrian defence ministry to transport military material, we sent a note yesterday to the Syrian side,” Davutoglu said.

Ankara has taken an increasingly strident line towards its southern neighbour since a shell fired from inside Syria killed five Turks on October 3.

It has since repeatedly hit back for cross-border fire, prompting growing UN concern and a flurry of diplomatic contacts.

- © AFP, 2012

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