* Armenian plane said to be carrying humanitarian aid
* Turkey allows plane to resume journey after search
* Syrian refugees in Turkish camps exceed 100,000
By Gulsen Solaker and Ozge Ozbilgin
ANKARA, Oct 15 Turkey ordered an Armenian plane
flying to the Syrian city of Aleppo to land and searched its
cargo on Monday, Ankara's latest move to prevent its airspace
being used to supply the Syrian military.
The plane was allowed to continue on its way after the
search in the eastern Turkish city of Erzurum confirmed it was
carrying humanitarian aid as stated by Armenian officials, a
Turkish deputy prime minister said.
Turkey forced down a Syrian airliner that had come from
Moscow on Wednesday, and said it had found Russian munitions on
board destined for Syria's armed forces.
NATO-member Turkey has become increasingly assertive in
challenging Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the face of
growing tensions along the border and banned all Syrian aircraft
from its airspace in the wake of that incident.
"The plane was ordered to land and it was inspected. It was
clear that the declaration was correct and the plane was given
permission to take off," Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told
A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Turkey had the sovereign
right under the Chicago convention on civil aviation to require
planes crossing its airspace to make a "technical landing" but
did not say whether this right would be exercised in future.
Armenia confirmed it had known the plane would be searched.
"The landing of the airplane in Turkey was planned and it
was carried out according to a previously reached agreement. The
airplane is delivering humanitarian aid to Syria," Armenian
Foreign Ministry spokesman Tigran Balayan said.
Aleppo has a sizeable ethnic Armenian minority.
Last week's decision to force down and search the Syrian
plane travelling from Russia infuriated Moscow and Damascus.
Russia has said there were no weapons on the plane and that
it was carrying a legal cargo of radar equipment. But Foreign
Minister Sergei Lavrov later said the incident would not hurt
the countries' "solid" relations.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan repeated on Monday
Ankara's charge that the airliner was carrying military
equipment. The packages seized from the plane bore the name KBP
Instrument Design Bureau, a Russian weapons manufacturer, and
the recipient was the Syrian Defence Ministry, he said.
"The material (being exchanged) between these two
institutions, which is now in our hands, is definitely warfare
material," Erdogan said. "There is no reason to contort this by
calling it radar equipment or something else. In any case, radar
material is used for the purpose of war."
He also downplayed Russian requests for information.
"Russia wants information from us. They don't need to ask
us, they can just ask the respective bureau. It's clear from the
consignment note," he told a news conference.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said at the weekend
that Turkish airspace had been closed to Syrian planes. Syria
also banned Turkish planes from flying over its territory.
The confrontation between Turkey and Syria has escalated in
the last two weeks because of cross-border shelling, with Ankara
retaliating after five Turkish civilians were killed when a
Syrian shell hit a Turkish border town.
The bloodshed inside Syria has worsened markedly in the past
two months although neither government nor rebels have been able
to gain a decisive advantage.
The increased conflict has fuelled further refugee flows
across Syria's borders, with many fleeing to Turkey.
The Turkish disaster management agency (AFAD) said on Monday
there were now 100,363 Syrians at more than a dozen camps.
Turkey has said it will struggle to accommodate more than
100,000 and has urged the United Nations to build refugee camps
in a safe zone within Syria's borders.