Saudi Arabia Ready to Send Ground Troops to Fight ISIS in Syria

Meanwhile, Russia accuses Turkey of preparing to invade the war-torn country.

In this image posted online June 26, 2015 by supporters of the Islamic State militant group on an anonymous photo sharing website, Islamic State militants fire an anti-tank missile in Hassakeh, northeast Syria.
AP

Saudi Arabia said on Thursday it was ready to participate in any ground operations in Syria if the U.S.-led alliance decides to start such operations, an adviser to the Saudi defense minister said. 

"The kingdom is ready to participate in any ground operations that the coalition (against Islamic State) may agree to carry out in Syria," Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri, who is also the spokesman for the Saudi-led Arab coalition in Yemen, told the Saudi-owned al-Arabiya TV in an interview.

Asked about the report at a briefing, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said the coalition is generally supportive of having partners contribute more in the fight against Islamic State but he had not seen the reported Saudi proposal.

"I would not want to comment specifically on this until we've had a chance to review it," he said. 

Meanwhile, the Russian military said Thursday that it has "reasonable grounds" to suspect that Turkey is making intensive preparations for a military invasion of neighboring Syria.

Images of a checkpoint on the border between the Turkish town of Reyhanli and the town of Sarmada in Syria taken in late October and late January show a buildup of transportation infrastructure that could be used for moving in troops, ammunition and weapons, spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said in an English-language written statement. He said these were among growing signs of "hidden preparation of the Turkish armed forces for active actions on the territory of Syria.

"Maybe, in peacetime, these facts would indicate the expectation of trade turnover growth between the neighboring countries," Konashenkov said. "However, during wartime, in such a way the transport infrastructure is preparing on the eve of military intervention."

A Turkish Foreign Ministry official said the ministry would have no immediate comment.

Konashenkov's accusations came a day after Russia accused Turkey of violating an international treaty by barring a previously arranged surveillance flight over Turkish territory adjacent to Syria and also over air bases used by NATO warplanes. The Treaty on Open Skies allows unarmed observation flights over the entire territory of its three dozen participants, which include the U.S., Russia and Turkey.

The Russian military regards this "as a dangerous precedent and an attempt to hide the illegal military activity near the Syrian border," the spokesman said.

He said Russia has extensive intelligence sources in the Middle East, so if Turkey thinks that the prohibition of the observer flight will allow it to hide something, "it is unprofessional."

The Turkish official declined comment on the Russian claims. The official could not be named in line with government rules that bar officials from speaking to reporters without prior authorization.

Ties between the two countries remain extremely tense following Turkey's downing of a Russian warplane at the border with Syria in November.