Saudi and Turkish foreign ministers confirmed Saturday that a ground invasion of Syria by Saudi Arabia is possible, stating that Saudi jets will be stationed at Turkey’s Incirlik air base near the Syrian border, AFP reported.
The Incirlik base is already an important hub being used by the US, France, and Britain in the ongoing coalition airstrikes that began in Sept. 2014.
The possibility of a coordinated ground attack against Daesh by Saudi Arabia and Turkey adds yet another element to an increasingly explosive situation in Syria, which Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said could drag the world into “a new Cold War.”
Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told the Turkish daily Yeni Safak, “If there is a strategy (against Daesh) then Turkey and Saudi Arabia could enter into a ground operation.”
“Some say ‘Turkey is reluctant to take part in the fight against Daesh’. But it is Turkey that is making the most concrete proposals,” Cavusoglu added.
On Friday, US defense secretary Ashton Carter met in Brussels with UAE officials, who also expressed a willingness to deploy commandos and train anti-Daesh forces, including the Kurdish Peshmerga.
It remains to be seen whether Saudi Arabia, potentially launching its invasion through Turkey, will adhere to Turkey’s definition of “terror” groups to include Kurdish militias, which the US counts as an ally in the fight against Daesh. Both countries, however, maintain that the end goal of defeating Daesh is not to keep Bashar al-Assad in power in Syria.
“There will be no Bashar al-Assad in the future,” Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, told a German newspaper.
Cavusoglu’s statement also hinted at the possibility of further confrontation between Turkey and Russia, saying, “Russia’s target is supporting Assad, we all know that. But the question is this: Who will stop Russia doing that?”
Meanwhile, world powers agreed this week to a partial truce in Syria, to be implemented in the coming week. But there was little hope for a more permanent ceasefire.
The nearly six-year-old conflict in Syria has killed, by some estimates, up to 470,000 people, and driven 11 million people from their homes.