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UAE says ready to send ground troops to Syria

ABU DHABI: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) said on Sunday it is ready to send ground troops to Syria as part of an international coalition to fight Daesh militants.
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash made the comments in response to a question at a media briefing on Sunday, days after Saudi Arabia said it is ready to deploy ground forces if leaders of the US-led international coalition fighting the group call for it.
Gargash says it has been the Emirates’ long-held position that a campaign to defeat the group “has to include ground elements.”
“We have been frustrated at the slow pace .... of confronting Daesh,” he added, referring to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) by its Arabic acronym.
“We are not talking about thousands of troops but we are talking about troops on the ground that will lead the way ... that will support ... and I think our position remains the same and we will have to see how this progresses,” he said.
Gargash added “US leadership on this” would be a prerequisite for the UAE.
Saudi Arabia said last week it was ready to participate in any ground operations in Syria if the US-led coalition fighting Daesh militants in Syria and Iraq decided to start such operations.
In response, Syria said it would resist any ground incursion into its territory.
“Any ground intervention in Syria, without the consent of the Syrian government, will be considered an aggression that should be resisted by every Syrian citizen,” he said. “I regret to say that they will return home in wooden coffins,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Moallem said in Damascus.
Al-Moallem’s comments capped a week that saw the collapse of the latest UN-led Syria peace efforts and a Russian-backed Syrian government offensive near the city of Aleppo that sent thousands of residents fleeing toward Turkey.
A Turkish official said Saturday that as many as 35,000 Syrians had massed along the closed border.
Suleyman Tapsiz, governor of the border province of Kilis, said Turkey would send aid to the displaced, but had no immediate plans to let them in. He said Turkey was prepared to open the gates in the event of an “extraordinary crisis.”
The Norwegian Refugee Council said thousands of Syrians have arrived at seven of the main informal camps close to the Turkish border. The group said the camps were already at capacity before the latest influx, and that aid groups are working around the clock to deliver tents and essential items to the displaced.

Russian-Turkish war of words
Russia’s Defense Ministry, meanwhile, said it had “reasonable grounds” to suspect that Turkey, another opposition ally, is making intensive preparations for a military invasion of Syria.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking during a visit to Senegal on Friday, dismissed the Russian claim as “laughable” and blamed Moscow for the deaths of civilians in Syria.
In his news conference Saturday, Al-Moallem signaled a newfound confidence on the part of the Syrian government, boosted by growing Russian military support. This week alone, Russian warplanes hit close to 900 targets across Syria, including near Aleppo.
The foreign minister said recent territorial gains signal that the war is nearing its end.
“I can say, from the achievements for our armed forces ... that we are now on track to end the conflict,” he said. “Like it or not, our battlefield achievements indicate that we are headed toward the end of the crisis.”
He called on rebel fighters to “come to their senses” and lay down their weapons.

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