ANKARA, Oct. 16 (Xinhua) -- The fact that Turkey ordered a second civilian aircraft en route to Syria to land for inspection within a week signaled that Turkey had meant business when it came to preventing its territory from being used as a transit to arm embattled Syrian regime in its fight against the opposition in this Arab country.
Bilal Cetin, veteran Turkish analyst, said the recent turns of events signified that Turkey would start imposing blockade in the land, sea and air space against Syria. "I think we have passed the last exit for Syria. I do not expect any softening of Turkish stand over Syria as long as the (Bashar al-Assad) regime stays in power in Damascus," he said.
Ankara forced an Armenian plane flying to the Syrian city of Aleppo to land on Monday in the city of Erzurum in eastern Turkey and searched its cargo before allowing it to continue its journey. It came on the heels of another incident in which Turkey forced down a Syrian airliner travelling from Moscow last Wednesday. Turkey said Syrian airplane was carrying Russian munitions destined for Syrian military, a claim that was dismissed by Russia.
AIR SPACE CLOSED FOR SYRIA
"We closed our air space to civilian Syrian flights as well as military flights," Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said over the weekend announcing the government's new decision to bar all Syrian aircraft from using Turkish air space. In retaliation, Syria has also banned Turkish planes from flying over its territory.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told reporters on Monday that the search work was done and the Armenian aircraft was cleared for continuation of its journey. "We verified Armenian government's declaration that the plane was carrying humanitarian aid to Aleppo. It was allowed to take off. That means we are very serious on this (arms embargo on Syria). We follow through very carefully," he explained.
Monday's search of Armenian plane was notified in advance to Armenia that requested overflight permission from Turkey, government officials said in the Turkish capital of Ankara. Omer elik, deputy chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party who is responsible for external relations, said that the examination was a technical procedure allowed under the 1944 International Air Services Transit Agreement.
"Air Armenia plane was allowed to use Turkish air space on the condition that it was to make a technical landing in Erzurum," he said, adding that it is a standard operating procedure for unscheduled civilian cargo flights.
The closed airspace may cost Turkish Airlines (THY), the fastest growing carrier in Europe, with an estimated bill of 1.5 million U.S. dollars for a month, according to experts. Guntay Simsek, an aviation industry expert, said that the THY needed to compensate the lost route over Syrian airspace with alternative ones to make destinations in the Middle East and Gulf.
THY Chairman Hamdi Topcu said on Tuesday that the airline had some 9 million U.S. dollars in Syrian banks confiscated by al- Assad regime. "We hope to recover our funds when the new regime in place in Damascus," he said.
COST TO TURKEY ON THE RISE
The cost of taking care of swelling number of refugees who fled the Syrian conflict will have to add to the hefty bill that Turkey need to pay out of its pocket. The government estimated that the cost was more than 300 million U.S. dollars so far and complained that the international community was not forthcoming in sharing the burden.
On Monday, the government emergency agency AFAD announced that the number of Syrian refugees officially registered in Turkish camps had topped 100,000 mark for the first time, exceeding the psychological threshold for which the government said may prompt Turkey to set up safe zones within Syria. Turkish efforts to secure a mandate from the UN Security Council for such a safety zone did not succeed however, frustrating Turkish government further.
LAND TRANSPORT UNDER SCRUTINY
Not only the air but the land corridor linking Syria to Turkey' s other neighbors are also off-limit for arms shipments, Turkey has said earlier, following arms embargo imposed by the government last year. Turkey has confiscated arms shipments sent by Iran through truck en route to Syria in February and notified the UNSC for the violations. A number of Iranian planes were forced to land for inspection before allowing them to proceed to their destinations in Syria.
The confrontation between Turkey and Syria has escalated in recent weeks with cross-border shelling prompted the government to obtain war resolution from the Parliament. The government says the Parliamentary motion is not intended to declare war against Syria but it is being used as a deterrent to dissuade Syrian forces from further aggression.
However Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan made it clear that his government was intended to use war powers when it deemed necessary, prompting concerns of serious confrontation in the region and in the world.