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Saudi ready to send anti-IS troops to Syria

Asiri said airstrikes alone are not the solution [AFP]

Date of publication: 4 February, 2016

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Saudi Arabia is ready to send ground troops to fight the Islamic State group in Syria, said army spokesman Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri on Thursday.

A Saudi military spokesman said on Thursday the kingdom is ready to send ground troops to Syria to fight Islamic State group (IS) provided coalition leaders agree during an upcoming meeting in Brussels.

Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri told The Associated Press that Saudi Arabia has taken part in coalition airstrikes against IS since the US-led campaign began in September 2014, but could now provide ground troops.

The United States is scheduled to convene a meeting of defence ministers from countries fighting IS in Brussels this month.

"We are determined to fight and defeat Daesh," Asiri said, using the Arabic acronym for IS. He did not elaborate on how many troops the kingdom would send.

In a separate interview with Dubai-based Al-Arabiya TV, Asiri said: "We believe that the airstrikes alone are not the perfect solution."

Saudi Arabia is deeply involved in Yemen's civil war, where it is fighting Houthi rebels accused of being backed by Iran.

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries have long viewed Iran as a regional menace, and Riyadh and Tehran back opposite sides in the wars in Syria and Yemen.

Russia said it suspects Turkey of planning a military invasion of Syria


Asiri's announcement came shortly after Russia said it suspects Turkey of planning a military invasion of Syria.

Russian ministry of defence spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said on Thursday in a statement that the Russian military has registered "a growing number of signs of hidden preparation of the Turkish armed forces for active actions on the territory of Syria."

He said images of a checkpoint on the Turkish-Syrian border taken in late October and late January show a buildup of transportation infrastructure that could be used for moving in troops, ammunition and weapons.

The announcement came a day after UN-led peace talks in Geneva were suspended for three weeks.

The United States blames both Syria's government and Russia for stalling the peace negotiations.

Syrian government troops, backed by Russian airstrikes, have increased the pace of attacks on opposition forces in recent days as the talks faltered.

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