Turkish FM: No decision made for anti-ISIL ground operation in Syria

Turkish FM: No decision made for anti-ISIL ground operation in Syria

Turkish FM: No decision made for anti-ISIL ground operation in Syria

Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir (R) greets his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Cavuşoğlu in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Dec 29. AFP photo

Turkey and Saudi Arabia have long advocated for a ground operation in Syria, but there is no solid decision for such an operation, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has said.

“This is not an issue for Turkey or Saudi Arabia alone, we have been saying that the coalition should be doing this,” Çavuşoğlu said on Feb. 13 when asked about the reports of a possible ground operation against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) by Turkey and Saudi Arabia in Syria. 

“But there is no solid decision on this, no concrete strategy,” Çavuşoğlu added. “This is not a new idea, but as of today, there is no decision regarding a ground operation.”

Earlier on Feb. 13, Turkey and Saudi Arabia could launch a ground operation against ISIL in Syria, while Riyadh is also sending war planes to a Turkish base to fight the extremist group, the Turkish foreign minister was reported as saying.

"At every coalition meeting we have always emphasized the need for an extensive result-oriented strategy in the fight against the Daesh terrorist group," Çavuşoğlu was quoted as saying in pro-government Yeni Şafak daily, using an Arabic acronym for ISIL.

"If we have such a strategy, then Turkey and Saudi Arabia may launch an operation from the land. Some parties keep saying that Turkey is unwilling in the fight against Daesh, despite Turkey's pushes for more tangible suggestions," the foreign minister added after taking part in the Munich Security Conference.

Saudi Arabia is also sending planes to Turkey, to the İncirlik Air Base in Adana, where jets from the U.S.-led anti-ISIL coalition are already based.

“They [Saudi officials] came, did a reconnaissance of the base. At the moment it is not clear how many planes will come," Çavuşoğlu said, adding that they don't have a certain plan for a land operation.

"We have been cooperating with Saudi Arabia in many fields, especially in defense, as we have very close relations with Qatar. Also despite having some problems with the United Arab Emirates, now we are recovering our ties. These cooperations have significance for the stability and the security of the region," Çavuşoğlu said, according to Yeni Şafak.

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said on Feb. 8 that the United States welcomed a Saudi offer to deploy special forces to support a coalition ground operation against ISIL inside Syria.

Speaking after a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, al-Jubeir said any operation would be U.S.-led but that Saudi Arabia would play a leading role.

“The United States government was very supportive and very positive about the kingdom’s readiness to provide special forces to the operation in Syria, should the international coalition make a decision to do so,” he told reporters.

“So the kingdom will be part of it,” he said. 

“That support came from the White House, it came from the State Department, it was natural for Secretary Kerry to support such a decision.”

Both Turkey and Saudi Arabia are outraged by the Russian military intervention in Syria, which analysts believe has given Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a new lease of life and has also deeply alarmed the West.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Feb. 13 that strains between Russia and the West over the Syria and Ukraine crises have plunged the world into a "new Cold War."

"Almost every day we are accused of making new horrible threats either against NATO as a whole, against Europe or against the US or other countries," Medvedev said in Munich.

Speaking in Munich, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry complained that the vast majority of Russia's attacks in Syria were against "legitimate opposition groups" rather than ISIL.

"We think it is critical that Russia's targeting change," he said.

Russia also dispatched a new patrol ship armed with cruise missiles to the Mediterranean, with reports saying it was bound for Syria.

With violence still raging on the ground, an ambush by Syrian rebels on pro-regime forces near Damascus this week killed 76 fighters, a monitor said on Feb. 13.

World powers on Feb. 12 announced an ambitious plan to stop fighting in Syria within a week, but doubts have emerged over its viability, especially because it did not include ISIL or al-Qaeda's local branch.

The 17-nation International Syria Support Group, which includes Turkey and Saudi Arabia, also agreed that "sustained delivery" of humanitarian aid would begin "immediately."