US welcomes Saudi troop offer for Syria

US Secretary of State John Kerry (right) and Saudi Foreign Minister Al-Jubeir deliver a statement after meeting in Washington.
US Secretary of State John Kerry (right) and Saudi Foreign Minister Al-Jubeir deliver a statement after meeting in Washington.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/US STATE DEPARTMENT) - The United States welcomes a Saudi offer to deploy special forces to support a possible coalition ground operation inside Syria, the kingdom's foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir said Monday (Feb 8).

Speaking after a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry, Foreign Minister Al-Jubeir said any operation would be US-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," said Mr Al-Jubeir. "That support came from the White House, it came from the State Department, it was natural for Secretary Kerry to support such a decision."

The Saudi Foreign Minister said the idea for a possible ground operation had come from Washington, and said that members of the 65-strong coalition against the Islamic State would expect the United States to lead it. The United States has publicly confirmed that it has sent a small number of special operations forces to eastern Syria to help local militias fight the Islamic State group. But debate continues in Washington about the advisability and final size of a possible larger ground operation against the hardline group.

The US Secretary of State told reporters at a joint news conference following his meeting with the Saudi Foreign Minister that the US remains engaged in addressing the crisis in Syria.

"We are deeply engaged in trying to get the International Syria Support Group to be in a position to be able to move towards full humanitarian access and a full ceasefire, which is in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolution 2254. And we hope that when we meet in Munich in the next few days we'll be in a position where we can make progress in that goal," said Mr Kerry.

"So it's our hope that because we both believe in diplomacy that over the course of these next days some progress can be made with respect to Syria and we can lay the groundwork for even more efforts ahead. And I thank King Salman and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for their solid efforts to help deal with the coalition against Daesh, their commitment recently of a willingness to put troops into that fight also, and there are many steps that we have taken with the GCC countries that are very critical to the ongoing security of the region," added the Secretary of State.

The Saudi Foreign Minister said his visit is part of the continuing consultations and co-ordination between Riyadh and Washington of their positions to protect their interests in the region and in the world.

"We have a tremendous stake in stability and peace and security in the region," said Mr Al-Jubeir. "We have a tremendous stake in trying to resolve the problems in the region before they consume all of us. We are determined to work with our allies in the United States and our allies around the world to bring this about, whether it is in the war against terrorism, whether it is in trying to stabilize the Middle East, whether it's in trying to begin a political transition in Syria, implementing 2254, whether it's in bringing peace between Israelis and Palestinians, peace to Yemen.

"Our region, unfortunately, is experiencing many challenges, and the resolution of these challenges is critically important to the future of the region and the world. And we are determined to work with our American friends in trying to find solutions to these areas in a way that promotes peace and security for all people of the region as well as people of the world,' Mr Al-Jubeir concluded.