Syria says plane crash pilot freed by Turkey

Damascus:Turkey has handed over to Syrian authorities a pilot who was arrested by Ankara after his aircraft crashed near the border of the two neighbouring countries, official media said Friday.

Syrian news agency SANA said the 56-year-old pilot — who managed to bail out of his aircraft before it went down in Turkey in March — was released by Turkish authorities on Thursday.

Turkey’s Dogan news agency said a court ordered his release pending a trial for “espionage” and “violating the frontier” and that he had been transferred overnight Thursday to a centre for migrants.

SANA identified the pilot as Mohammed Sufan and said “he has been handed over to the competent (Syrian) authorities”.

The announcement of his release comes amid a warming of ties between Turkey, which backs Syrian opposition fighters, and Russia which supports President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

On Friday, Turkey said it had deployed dozens of soldiers in the Syrian northwestern province of Idlib to establish “observation posts”.

Idlib is one of four so-called “de-escalation” zones under a deal brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran in May, as part of a major push to still fighting in war-torn Syria.