No weapons on Syrian plane Turkey intercepted: Russia
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Friday that no weapons were aboard a Syrian civilian jet grounded by Turkish authorities on Wednesday and the plane had been carrying a legal shipment of radar equipment.
"We have no secrets." Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a statement provided to Reuters by Russian state television.
"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," he told Russian state television.
Turkey's prime minister said on Thursday that the plane forced to land in Ankara en route from Moscow to Damascus on Wednesday, and later released, had been carrying Russian-made munitions destined for Syria's armed forces.
Syria's military and allied militia have killed thousands of civilians during a 19-month-old uprising that began with pro-democracy protests.
Lavrov said the cargo in question was "electro-technical equipment for a radar station", adding that it was of dual military-civilian use but was "not prohibited by international conventions".
"Shipping such a cargo on civilian aircraft is an absolutely normal practice," he said.
Lavrov said the supplier, which he did not name, would demand the return of the equipment "which is its property".
He said Russia was awaiting an official explanation of why Russian citizens aboard the plane were not given access to Russian diplomats while the aircraft was being held in Ankara. It later flew on to Damascus but the cargo was confiscated.
Lavrov said that Turkish authorities had contacted the pilot before the plane entered Turkish airspace and proposed that he change course or land in Ankara.
Russia has drawn Western condemnation for vetoing, along with China, three U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed to pressure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to end the bloodshed.
Lavrov said in June that Russia, a longtime supplier of arms to Assad's government, is not delivering offensive weapons to Syria, and President Vladimir Putin said it is delivering no weapons that could be used in a civil conflict.
(Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Thomas Grove and Michael Roddy)
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