Turkey joins Sunni ‘anti-terrorist’ military coalition

Turkey joins Sunni ‘anti-terrorist’ military coalition

RIYADH – Agence France-Presse
Turkey joins Sunni ‘anti-terrorist’ military coalition

A picture provided by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA)on December 10, 2015 shows Saudi Interior Minister and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef (C) and Defense Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (L) welcoming members of Syrian opposition during their meeting in Riyadh. / AFP / AFP AND SPA / FAYEZ NURELDINE

Turkey has joined a 34-state Islamic military alliance that consists solely of Sunni states to fight terrorism amid a continuing war on jihadists in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Turkey would lend support to all initiatives against terror, noting that its participation in the military alliance against terrorism was a reflection of such resolve, reiterating his government’s resolve in fighting against global terror.

“The countries here mentioned have decided on the formation of a military alliance led by Saudi Arabia to fight terrorism, with a joint operations center based in Riyadh to coordinate and support military operations,” the statement said, according to Saudi Arabia’s official news agency SPA.

The Saudi-led alliance does not include the kingdom’s Shiite regional rival Iran, or Syria and Iraq.

States from the Middle East, Africa and Asia states will participate in the coalition.  

The coalition will tackle “the Islamic world’s problem with terrorism and will be a partner in the worldwide fight against this scourge,” said Saudi Defense Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at a press conference in Riyadh, according to Reuters.

 “The raising of Muslim countries’ voices together against terror is the best response to those who try to associate terror with Islam. In this context, Turkey is ready to make its best contribution … in the struggle against terror. We consider this effort by Muslim countries as a step taken in the right direction,” Davutoğlu told reporters on Dec. 15 at a press conference before departing from Ankara for an official visit to Sofia.

Arrangements would be made for “coordination with friendly peace-loving nations and international bodies for the sake of supporting international efforts to combat terrorism and to save international peace and security,” SPA added.

The states listed among the 34 countries will include – apart from Turkey and Saudi Arabia – Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Tunisia, Djibouti, Sudan, Somalia, Palestinian territories, Comoros, Qatar, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Egypt, Morocco, Mauritania, Yemen, Benin, Chad, Togo, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Gabon, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Maldives and Malaysia. 

The 34 members all belong to the Jeddah-based Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

Later in the day, Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said the new “anti-terrorism” coalition would share intelligence and deploy troops if necessary.  

“If countries need help they can ask for assistance... on a case-by-case basis,” he told reporters in Paris on Dec. 15. “In terms of the operations nothing is off the table.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said on Dec. 15 that the Saudi-based alliance was in line with U.S.’ calls for greater involvement by Sunni Muslim countries to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). 

“We look forward to learning more about what Saudi Arabia has in mind in terms of this coalition,” Reuters quoted Ash Carter as saying at the İncirlik Air Base in Turkey on Dec. 15.

“But in general it appears it is very much in line with something we’ve been urging for quite some time, which is greater involvement in the campaign to combat ISIL by Sunni Arab countries,” he added.
Meanwhile, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Dec. 15 that she welcomed Saudi Arabia’s announcement on the formation of the alliance. 

“I think it’s right that the opposition is forming a group but it needs to be – and this is important – part of the Vienna process that includes all countries fighting against ISIL like the U.S., Europe, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, but also Iran and China,” she told German broadcaster ZDF.