Turkish fighter jets forced a Syrian airliner to land in Ankara after it was suspected of carrying weapons.

The Airbus A320 was flying from Moscow to Damascus with just 35 passengers – far fewer than its 180 passenger capacity – and two crew.

Military communications devices were reportedly confiscated before the aircraft was allowed to leave hours later.

Turkish authorities also declared Syrian airspace to be unsafe and are preventing Turkish aircraft from flying over the country.

Turkey’s foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu told state-run television: “We are determined to control weapons transfers to a regime that carries out such brutal massacres against civilians.

“It is unacceptable that such a transfer is made using our airspace.

“Today we received information this plane was carrying cargo of a nature that could not possibly be in compliance with the rules of civil aviation.”

Five Turkish civilians were killed by Syrian mortar fire last week, prompting Turkey to fire into Syria for the first time since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began 19 months ago.

Turkey’s top military commander warned yesterday that Ankara would respond with greater force if Syria continued its cross-border shelling, according to the BBC.