A landing in Turkey by an Armenian An-12 cargo aircraft carrying humanitarian aid to Syria was planned, Armenia's Foreign Minister Tigran Balayan said on Monday, after media reports had initially claimed Turkey had forced it to land in order to search it.
"The landing in Turkey by this aircraft carrying humanitarian aid to Syria was planned. It took place totally in accordance with an agreement reached earlier," he told the Novaya Armenia agency.
Earlier, Turkish television had reported the Turkish authorities had instructed the aircraft to land at Erzurum Airport in the east of the country after which it was searched.
Turkey's NTV television said the Turkish authorities had granted permission for the flight over its territory on condition it was inspected at Erzurum. The aircraft requested overflight permission by official channels, and was set to continue its journey if there were no problems discovered. According to CNN-Turk television, quoting Turkish Foreign Ministry sources, the transport plane continued its flight onward to the Syrian city of Aleppo.
"As Turkey demanded, the Armenian plane carrying humanitarian cargo landed at 11:15 in Erzurum. The Armenian side was informed of this. The Armenians agreed to comply with the Turkish request as it had nothing to hide," said Lilit Galstyan, a member of the Armenian NGO Pomogi Bratu (Help Your Brother), news site A1plus.am reported.
The group has already collected around 40 tons of food aid for Syrian Armenians, Galstyan added.
Syria is home to a large Armenian diaspora community of around 80-100,000 people, of which 50-60,000 live in Aleppo.
According to Turkish website Airporthaber, procedures for Air Armenia's An-12 flights were simplified last Tuesday by the Turkish authorities. Due to the increasingly strained relations between Turkey and Syria, Turkey's aviation authorities sent a request to the foreign ministry declaring overflight permission would be granted if inspections were included. The Armenian airline was informed of the decision on Friday.
The plane was carrying sunflower oil, jam, peas, caviar, rice, sugar, flour and macaroni, Airporthaber said.
On October 10, Turkish F-16 fighter jets forced a Syrian A320 on a Moscow-Damascus flight to land at an airport in Turkey, after which it was searched for several hours. The Turkish authorities removed 12 boxes of cargo, which media reports quoted the authorities as saying contained electronic components for air defense radar systems.
Russia denied having sent any weapons or military equipment on that flight.