ISTANBUL: Turkey and Saudi Arabia could launch a ground operation against Daesh terrorists in Syria, the Turkish foreign minister said Saturday, adding the Kingdom was already sending jets to a Turkish base to attack the extremists.
The coordinated plans by Riyadh and Ankara, who are pursuing an increasingly tight alliance, add a new element to the situation in Syria where Russia has been backing a regime offensive against rebels.
“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.
Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Ahmed Al-Assiri, spokesman of the Defense Ministry, confirmed Saturday deployment of Saudi warplanes to the Turkish base of Incirlik, a key hub for US-led coalition operations against Daesh, already used by Britain, France and the US carrying for cross-border air raids.
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’.”
Cavusoglu did not specify the number of troops or jets, or the timing of a possible Saudi deployment, but said exploratory visits have been made.
Russia also dispatched a new patrol ship armed with cruise missiles to the Mediterranean, with reports saying it was bound for Syria.