Turkey Ban Affects Armenia Flights to Syria
YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Syria’s national airline said on Tuesday that it will continue carrying out weekly flights to Armenia despite Turkey’s decision to close its airspace to Syrian aircraft.
An official at the Yerevan office of Syrian Air told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that the company’s planes will now fly from Aleppo to Yerevan via Iraq and Iran. The diverted flights will last longer and cost slightly more, the official said.
The next Yerevan-Aleppo flight was scheduled for Tuesday evening.
Turkey banned Syrian planes from flying over its territory at the weekend following a further upsurge in cross-border tensions between the two neighboring states. The confrontation escalated since five Turkish civilians were killed when a Syrian shell hit a Turkish border town two weeks ago.
Last week Turkish authorities forced down and searched a Syrian plane travelling from Russia and claimed to have found Russian munitions on board destined for Syria’s armed forces. Moscow condemned the move, saying that were no weapons on the plane.
An Armenian cargo plane carrying humanitarian aid was similarly searched in the eastern Turkish city of Erzurum on its way to Aleppo on Monday. Turkish officials said afterwards that it had no cargo that could be used by the Syrian military.
Unlike Syrian Air, Armenia’s national airline, Armavia, stopped its regular flights to Aleppo on September 17 due to the worsening bloodshed in Syria’s largest city home to a sizable Armenian community.
Thousands of Syrian nationals, virtually all of them of Armenian descent, have fled to Armenia on board Syrian Air and Armavia airliners in the past year. Hranush Hakobian, the Armenian minister for Diaspora affairs, said on Monday that there are currently about 5,000 Syrian Armenians in the country.