By Ruzanna Stepanian
Turkey has banned Armenian civilian aircraft from flying over its territory en route to Syria and Lebanon, government officials in Yerevan said on Thursday.
They told RFE/RL that Turkish aviation authorities have cited unspecified “technical reasons” for the ban in separate letters to the Armenian government’s Civil Aviation Department and the Armavia national airline, which carries out regular flights from Yerevan to Beirut and Aleppo. The letters were sent after an Armavia plane bound for the Lebanese capital was denied access to Turkish airspace and had return to Yerevan Tuesday.
“Turkish aviation authorities have officially notified us that there are problems relating to the Yerevan-Aleppo and Yerevan-Beirut flights and that those flights will not be serviced by them temporarily and will have to rerouted,” said Gayane Davtian, a spokeswoman for the department.
Both Davtian and Armavia officials said the Turkish side did not elaborate on reasons for the restriction that does not seem to apply to the Syrian airline Astrom that operates weekly flights services from Aleppo and Damascus to the Armenian capital. An Astrom representative in Yerevan said its next flight scheduled for Saturday will go ahead as planned.
“Through diplomatic channels we yesterday asked the Turkish authorities to clarify the situation,” Vladimir Karapetian, a spokesman for the Armenian Foreign Ministry, told RFE/RL. “We have not yet received a reply.”
Turkey has kept its airspace open to passenger jets flying to and from Armenia for the past several years while refusing to reopen the Turkish-Armenian land border and establish diplomatic relations with Yerevan. Some Turkish officials and politicians warned recently that Ankara could scrap the over-flying rights if the U.S. Congress passes a resolution recognizing the mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide.
Davtian said Turkey has so far placed on restrictions on weekly flights Yerevan and Istanbul as well as Armenian and other aircraft flying to and from Europe via Turkish territory. She also said that Turkish planes continue to use Armenia’s airspace for carrying out flights to third countries. “Armenia’s airspace remains open to all countries,” added the official.