Riyadh (AFP) – Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir reaffirmed on Tuesday the kingdom’s willingness to deploy troops to Syria as part of US-led efforts to stabilise the conflict-torn country.
“We are in discussions with the US and have been since the beginning of the Syrian crisis (in 2011) about sending forces into Syria,” Jubeir said at a press conference in Riyadh with UN chief Antonio Guterres.
The comments were in response to a Wall Street Journal report on Monday that US President Donald Trump’s administration was seeking to assemble an Arab force, including troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, to help stabilise Syria.
The report follows weekend strikes by the United States, Britain and France against Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s regime that hit targets they said were linked to its chemical weapons programme.
Jubeir emphasised the proposal to send its troops was “not new”.
“We made a proposal to the (previous US) Obama administration that if the US were to send forces… then Saudi Arabia would consider along with other countries sending forces as part of this contingent,” he said.
Syria’s war, the most tangled of the region’s conflicts, is a key point of contention pitting Riyadh and its allies, who mainly back Sunni Muslim rebels, against regime backer Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah.
Riyadh and Shiite rival Tehran also back opposing sides in other hotspots across the mainly Sunni Middle East, including Lebanon, Iraq and Saudi Arabia’s southern neighbour, Yemen.