ISTANBUL — Turkey and Saudi Arabia could launch a ground operation against Daesh in Syria, the Turkish foreign minister said Saturday, adding the Kingdom was already sending jets to a Turkish base to attack the militants.
“If there is a strategy (against Daesh) then Turkey and Saudi Arabia could enter into a ground operation,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was quoted as saying by the Yeni Safak and Haberturk newspapers after taking part in the Munich Security Conference.
“Some say ‘Turkey is reluctant to take part in the fight against Daesh’. But it is Turkey that is making the most concrete proposals,” he said.
On Friday, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the UAE wants to deploy commandos to help train forces fighting Daesh terrorists and will resume its contribution to the US-led air campaig.
Carter met top UAE officials in Brussels following a landmark summit of anti-Daesh coalition members to discuss ways to step up the 18-month fight against Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
“They indicated to me their willingness to do more, which is important, specifically to re-start their participation in the air campaign, secondly to work with us on the ground,” Carter said.
UAE special operations forces would help train and advise — as well as arm — anti-Daesh forces in Syria and local partners in Iraq, including Sunni groups and the Kurdish Peshmerga. Carter did not say how big the force would be.
Cavusoglu said that Saudi Arabia is also sending planes to the Turkish base of Incirlik, a key hub for US-led coalition operations against Daesh, already used by Britain, France and the United States carrying for cross-border air raids.
“They (Saudi officials) came, did a reconnaissance of the base. At the moment it is not clear how many planes will come,” Cavusoglu said.
Asked if Saudi Arabia could send troops to the Turkish border to enter Syria, Cavusoglu said: “This is something that could be desired but there is no plan. Saudi Arabia is sending planes and they said ‘If the necessary time comes for a ground operation then we could send soldiers’.”
Saudi Arabia had already said earlier this month that it was ready to join any ground operation against Daesh. But this is the first time a top Turkish official has publicly raised the prospect, long the subject of speculation, of a joint ground incursion with the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia and Turkey both see the ousting of Syrian President Bashar Assad as essential for ending Syria’s five-year civil war and are bitterly critical of Iran and Russia’s support of the Syrian regime.
Both are outraged by the Russian military intervention in Syria, which analysts believe has given Assad a new lease of life and has also deeply alarmed the West. — AFP