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Saudi says discussed Syria incursion with US

A Saudi official says the kingdom and the US discussed the possibility of a ground incursion in Syria two weeks ago but they have not made a decision.

“It was discussed two weeks ago in Brussels,” Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri, an aide to Saudi Arabia’s defense minister, said on Monday.

“It was discussed at the political level but it wasn’t discussed as a military mission,” Reuters quoted him as saying in an interview.

Saudi Defense Minister Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud met his counterparts from the US-led coalition which has been carrying out airstrikes inside Syria since September 2014, Asseri said.

“Once this is organized, and decided how many troops and how they will go and where they will go, we will participate in that,” he said.

“We need to discuss at the military level very extensively with the military experts to make sure that we have a plan,” Asseri said.

The kingdom, he said, was now ready to carry out airstrikes from Turkey’s Incirlik air base, where four Saudi fighter jets arrived last week.

The US is already using Incirlik for attacks inside Syria.

USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier and guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy 60 sail in the US 5th Fleet area of operations in the Persian Gulf, April 16, 2015. (Photo by AFP)

Turkey has also urged allies to launch ground operations in Syria. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said Ankara and Riyadh could launch a ground operation in Syria “if there is a strategy.”

Threat to ceasefire

There is currently a fragile ceasefire in Syria, which has held for the fourth day despite reports of breaches by various warring sides.

On Monday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov called out Turkey and other countries, saying they were damaging efforts made by all parties in relation to the Syrian peace process.

He said Russia had noticed several incidents that violated the ceasefire deal on Syria, especially from Turkey and other countries neighboring Syria.

“We are concerned about the increasing military activities on the Syrian border. If the countries that are doing so intend to fulfill some agenda by force, then it would be a fatal blow to the prolonged efforts all sides have made to solve the Syria crisis,” he said.

“The governments of these nations, including the Turkish government, should fully realize their responsibility in what has happened,” said Ryabkov.

Ryabkov said the US-led coalition should pay more attention inside its own circle, and not pass blame to Russia and the Syrian government.

Syrian Popular Front for Change and Liberation leader Qadri Jamil also criticized Turkey for allegedly breaking the agreement. He called for the international community to impose sanctions on Turkey for its actions.

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