The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is ready to send ground troops to Syria as part of an international coalition to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, a top official has said.
The announcement comes just days after Saudi Arabia expressed the same position, saying that it was prepared to deploy troops to fight ISIL in Syria if the US-led coalition were to agree.
“Our position throughout has been that a real campaign against [ISIL] has to include a ground force,” the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said at a news conference in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
Gargash added that “US leadership on this” would also be a prerequisite for the UAE.
He did not elaborate about how many troops the UAE could send – but added: “We are not talking about thousands of troops.”
Saudi Arabia, which has targeted ISIL with air strikes since the campaign began in Syria in September 2014, said on Thursday it was ready to provide ground forces to defeat the armed group.
“We know that air strikes cannot be enough and that a ground operation is needed. We need to combine both to achieve better results on the ground,” Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri told Al Jazeera on Thursday.
Syria, however, responded by warning against foreign intervention, threatening all foreign army soldiers who enter the country without President Bashar al-Assad’s government’s agreement.
“Any ground intervention in Syria, without the consent of the Syrian government, will be considered an aggression that should be resisted by every Syrian citizen,” Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said on Saturday.
“I regret to say that they will return home in wooden coffins.”
Muallem appeared to indicate a boosted confidence that the government’s recent military advances against opposition fighters in Aleppo had put it “on track” towards winning the five-year civil war.
“Like it or not, our battlefield achievements indicate that we are headed towards the end of the crisis,” he said, before calling on rebel fighters to “come to their senses” and lay down their weapons.