DUBAI and ANKARA — Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Feb. 13 that Turkey and Saudi Arabia may join forces for ground operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL) in Syria.
Although a senior Saudi military official said the Royal Saudi Air Force deployed fighter jets to the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, Turkish officials say the deployment will take place in the coming weeks.
Brigadier Gen. Ahmed Al-Assiri, consultant to Saudi Minister of Defense Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, confirmed to Saudi-owned news station Al-Arabiya the arrival of Saudi Air Force jets at the Turkish base.
“Our jet fighters and crews have been deployed to the Incirlik Air Base,” he said. “We have deployed them as part of the international coalition led by Washington,” he added.
Assiri also confirmed the kingdom’s readiness to enter ground operations in Syria but to this point no Saudi Special Operations Forces have been deployed to Turkey.
“The Saudi deployment is only limited to Air Force personnel at this point,” he said.
Turkish military sources said the Saudi aircraft would be used either in airstrikes against ISIL strongholds in Syria or in support missions if the two countries decide to engage in a cross-border land operation inside Syria.
They did not comment on how many Saudi aircraft would arrive on Turkish soil, but they confirmed reports that Saudi military officials visited Incirlik recently on a reconnaissance mission.
Cavusoglu said that Turkey and Saudi Arabia have long considered a land operation in Syria but no decision has been made.
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