UAE says ready to send ground troops to Syria

Updated 08 February 2016
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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.


End Syria hospital attacks, Russia told at UN

Updated 15 min 12 sec ago
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End Syria hospital attacks, Russia told at UN

  • Kuwait, Germany and Belgium asked for the hastily called closed-door session
  • Russian and Assad egime aircraft have since late April ramped up deadly bombardment of the Idlib region

UNITED NATIONS: Russia on Thursday opposed a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an end to attacks on health facilities in Syria’s Idlib region, diplomats said after the latest meeting over violence in the country’s last major opposition bastion.
The outcome led to a rare statement following the meeting by the UN’s humanitarian chief, Mark Lowcock.
“The carnage must stop,” he said.
Russian and Assad egime aircraft have since late April ramped up deadly bombardment of the Idlib region of about three million people in northwest Syria, despite a deal to avert a massive government assault.
Kuwait, Germany and Belgium asked for the hastily called closed-door session, the latest of many they have sought since May in response to worsening fighting in Syria’s northwest.
The draft text, given to journalists, expressed “grave concern regarding the recent attacks on hospitals and other health facilities,” including a July 10 attack on Maarat National Hospital, one of the largest in the area and whose coordinates had been shared through the UN “deconfliction mechanism” that aims to spare civilian targets.
Russia again denied bombing such facilities.
“I provided information from my ministry of defense” and investigation demonstrated that there were “no attacks at nine out of eleven facilities” allegedly attacked, Moscow’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told reporters.
“The two others were partially damaged but not by Russian” forces, he said.
His British counterpart, Karen Pierce, seemed skeptical.
“There’s some interest in an investigation into the Maarat Hospital hit. So I think that’s the thing to focus on,” she said at the end of the meeting.
“We’ve got our suspicions. But let’s get a proper look into that and get a proper answer.”
Lowcock said after the meeting that since July 1, “at least six health facilities, five schools, three water stations, two bakeries and one ambulance have been damaged or destroyed.
“Entire villages have been destroyed and emptied” because of air strikes, he said.
Regime air strikes on Tuesday killed 11 civilians in Idlib’s south, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The region on Turkey’s doorstep is administered by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, but other jihadist and rebel groups are also present.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres last week strongly condemned air strikes in the region following reports from a Syrian doctors’ group that four health facilities including the Maarat Al-Numan facility were hit during a single day of bombing.
Syria’s war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.