Saudi Arabia confirms it has dispatched warplanes to the Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey, claiming that the move was in line with the so-called fight against Daesh Takfiri terrorists in Syria.
Speaking to al-Arabiya television network on Saturday, Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asiri, a Saudi military spokesman, claimed that the kingdom was committed to battling Daesh.
Saudi Arabia and Turkey are widely believed to be among major sponsors of terrorist groups operating against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Asiri said no ground troops are currently stationed at the air base, adding, “What is present now is aircraft that are part of the Saudi Arabian forces.”
On Saturday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told the Yeni Safak newspaper that Riyadh had inspected the air base in preparation for the dispatch of the military aircraft.
“They (Saudi officials) came, did a reconnaissance of the base. At the moment it is not clear how many planes will come,” Cavusoglu said, adding, “They said, ‘If necessary we can also send troops’.’”
The Turkish minister said Ankara and Riyadh could launch a ground operation in Syria “if there is a strategy.”
On February 12, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told the CNN that Riyadh is ready to deploy special forces to Syria if the US-led coalition decides to send ground troops. The so-called coalition has been conducting combat sorties against purported positions of Daesh in Syria since September 2014.
“If the international coalition against Daesh, which we are a part and have been since the very beginning, decides that it will introduce ground troops to Syria in addition to the current air campaign, we have said that the Kingdom of Saudi is prepared to contribute special forces to this effort,” Jubeir said.
‘In coffins will end any incursion’
Earlier this month, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said Damascus would resist any ground incursion into its territory and send the aggressors home “in coffins.”
“Any ground intervention onto Syrian land without the agreement of the Syrian government is an act of aggression… and we regret that those [who do so] will return to their countries in coffins,” the Syrian foreign minister stated.
Russia and Iran have also warned against the deployment of foreign ground forces to Syria, calling it dangerous.
“All sides must be compelled to sit at the negotiating table instead of unleashing a new world war,” Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told Germany’s Handelsblatt newspaper on February 12.
Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani said on February 9 that a potential troop deployment by regional countries to Syria would be a “very dangerous” decision.
In addition to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have also expressed readiness to send soldiers to Syria.
According to a new report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, the conflict in Syria has claimed the lives of over 470,000 people, injured 1.9 million others, and displaced nearly half of the country’s pre-war population of about 23 million within or beyond its borders since March 2011.