BEIRUT

Middle East

U.S. official in Ankara for Syria talks

Free Syrian Army fighters are seen at Sermada near Idlib October 13, 2012. Picture taken October 13, 2012. REUTERS/Shaam News Network/Handout

ANKARA: A senior US official will hold talks in Ankara on Tuesday on a range of issues including the Syrian crisis amid heightened tensions between Ankara and Damascus, an embassy spokesman said.

"We continue to consult with our partners in the region including Turkey on a variety of issues related to Syria," U.S. embassy spokesman in Ankara T.J. Grubisha told AFP.

U.S. Acting Under Secretary for arms control and international security Rose Gottemoeller will meet Turkish officials in Ankara to discuss bilateral and regional cooperation on arms control, non-proliferation, disarmament and other international security issues.

The US official's visit comes after Turkey forced a Damascus-bound Syrian airliner from Moscow to land in Ankara last week, inflaming tensions with Syria and Russia.

Turkey grounded the passenger plane upon intelligence that it was carrying military cargo. Turkish officials declined to reveal by whom or which country the intelligence had been provided.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the cargo contained military equipment for the Syrian defence ministry, but Russia said it was dual-purpose radar equipment which was not banned by international conventions.

Turkey and Syria closed their airspace to each other's civilian flights at the weekend.

Ankara has taken an increasingly strident line towards its southern neighbour since a shell fired from the Syrian side of the border killed five Turks on October 3.

On Monday, Ankara ordered an Armenian humanitarian aid plane headed for Syria's city of Aleppo to land for routine security checks. The plane resumed its journey through Turkish airspace later Monday after it got Ankara's clearance.

 

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