Turkey-Syria conflict escalates amid 'air piracy' incident

An early-morning decision by Turkey to escort a plane bound for Syria to the ground is escalating already high tensions between the neighbouring nations.

According to the BBC, the Syrian passenger plane left from Russia Wednesday and was headed to Syria when it was intercepted and forced to make a landing in the Turkish capital of Ankara.

Turkish officials searched the plane, saying they had suspicious that the aircraft may have been carrying weapons. They removed some cargo and let the plane resume travelling to its final destination.

Syrian officials, however, called the move “hostile and reprehensible,” reports Voice of America, saying that it amounted to air piracy. Russia also demanded Turkey explain its actions.

The plane’s grounding comes a week after a Syrian mortar attack killed five Turks near the border between the two countries.

The mounting tensions could soon cause the need for real action that would likely draw NATO countries into the conflict, points out the Christian Science Monitor’s Ian O. Lesser. “Given the animosity between both Ankara and Damascus, and the substantial military forces arrayed on either side of the border—Turkey has NATO’s second largest military after the United States—a Turkish-Syrian conflict would represent a dramatic development,” Lesser writes.