JEDDAH/RIYADH: The Saudi government has announced that it would lead a 34-nation alliance against terrorist groups, with a joint operations center set up in Riyadh.
The countries are Jordan, UAE, Pakistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Benin, Turkey, Chad, Togo, Tunisia, Djibouti, Senegal, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Gabon, Guinea, Palestine, Comoros, Qatar, Cote d’Ivoire, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Maldives, Mali, Malaysia, Egypt, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Yemen.
“More than 10 other (Muslim-majority) countries have expressed their support for this alliance and will take the necessary measures in this regard, including Indonesia,” the government announced in a statement carried by the SPA.
At a press conference on Monday night at King Salman Air Base in Riyadh, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, said that the alliance would operate on UN and OIC provisions on terrorism, which affirms the “right of states to self-defense.”
He said the alliance consists of nations making up most of the Islamic world, which are committed to fighting this “disease which affects first” the Islamic world and then the international community. “Today, every Islamic country is fighting terrorism individually. The coordination of efforts is very important ...”
The 10 other Muslim countries are keen to join and would do so after taking certain “measures,” he said. The announcement of the alliance could not wait for these countries because of the importance of the initiative, he told journalists, according to SPA.
“We have a number of countries suffering from terrorism, including Syria, Iraq, Sinai, Yemen, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, and this requires very strong efforts to fight it. Undoubtedly through this alliance, there will be coordination to fight it ...”
He said that the alliance would not focus only on certain groups such as Daesh, known also as the Islamic State, but confront terrorist operators across the world. He said that operations in Syria would “obviously” not be carried out without working with legitimate groups and the international community.
There would not only be military operations but also attempts to launch media and information campaigns to counter the influence of these groups across the world, he said.
The alliance would share intelligence and deploy troops if needed, said Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir on Tuesday.
“Nothing is off the table. A number of countries are in desperate need of assistance,” he told reporters in Paris, according to a report by AFP. He said military help would be considered on a “case-by-case basis.”
“Terrorism has hit Islamic countries. It is time that the Islamic world takes a stand,” said Al-Jubeir. The alliance would operate with military operations and campaigns to counter the ideology of these extremist groups, he was quoted as saying.
Al-Jubeir Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states are discussing sending special forces to Syria as part of US-led efforts to fight Daesh.
“There are discussions, countries that are currently part of the coalition (like) Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Bahrain about sending in some special forces into Syria, and those discussions are ongoing. It’s not excluded,” Al-Jubeir said.
He said that the discussions were aimed at clarifying the needs and the objectives of such an operation, but that the picture should become clearer in the next few weeks.
Meanwhile, Germany’s Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said she welcomed Saudi Arabia’s announcement.
She reportedly told German broadcaster ZDF the alliance would be of help if it joined other countries fighting Daesh, adding that militants had gained strength from disagreement among various opposition parties on how to fight or who to protect.