A Syrian plane intercepted by Turkey was carrying "illegal cargo" the country's foreign minister has said.

Turkish authorities spent hours conducting searches on board the passenger plane early Thursday, amid fears the aircraft was transporting weapons from Moscow to Damascas.

"Objectionable materials" were removed before the plane was allowed to leave, foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu told Anatolia, Turkish state news agency.

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The Airbus A320 airliner has a capacity of 180 passengers but only 30 people were on board when the plane was intercepted

30 passengers were on board the Syrian bound-flight when Turkish fighter jets scrambled and forced the plane to land in Ankara.

Turkey said it would not allow military equipment to be transferred through its airspace.

Davutoglu didn't say whether arms were among the cargo but unconfirmed reports in the Turkish media said boxes of military communication equipment was found on board. NTV reported that missile parts were seized.

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Foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu said they received reports that there was 'non-civilian cargo' on board


Russia has denied supplying weapons to Syria illegally and accused Turkey of putting civilian lives "under threat." President Vladimir Putin has postponed his scheduled visit to Ankara following the incident, reported AFP. He failed to give a reason for the delay.

"Neither weapons nor any systems or assembly parts for military equipment were or could have been on board the passenger plane," an unidentified high-ranking source from one of Russia's arms exporting agencies told Interfax.

"If there were a need to deliver military equipment or armaments to Syria, it would be done in a routine way rather than illegally, let alone by using a passenger plane," the source said.

In September, Russia said that it would not sign new weapons contracts with Syria until the situation in the country is calmer.

However it will continue with previously agreed exports, the deputy chief of the Russian military and technical cooperation agency said.

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Syrian troops participate in a live fire exercise in an undisclosed location in Syria

After the latest incident, Syria accused Turkey of "air piracy" and breaking civil aviation law. Turkey has warned its own airlines against operating in Syrian airspace amid retaliation fears

Tension escalated between Turkey and Syria after Turkish forces fired on Syrian soldiers in retaliation for shelling a Turkish border town.

Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, condemned the attack, which left five civilians dead and several wounded. According to the mayor of Akcakale, a mother, her three children and a family friend died in the attack.

Following the shelling the Turkish parliament approved a bill authorising cross-border military operations in Syria, but insists it is not a mandate for war.

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A Turkish soldier patrols on the border with Syria near Akcakale

It was revealed that Syria has stopped buying electricity from Turkey in the midst of the tension but Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said Turkey was prepared resume supplies to Syria if asked.

The exchange has raised fears of full-scale conflict between the neighbouring states, with Turkey issuing the following statement last week "Turkey... will never leave unreciprocated such provocations by the Syrian regime against our national security."

The Foreign Office updated its advice to British citizens last week warning tourists to "avoid all but essential travel to part(s) of country"