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Turkey, Saudi Arabia begin joint military drills

This AFP file photo shows Saudi warplanes.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia have begun joint air exercises, claiming it is within the framework of cooperation and military training between the two countries.

The Turkish military said in a statement that the five-day drills started on Monday, adding that six Saudi F-15 fighter jets are involved in the military exercises.

The drills were planned in advance and are taking place in Turkey’s central region of Konya, the statement said.

Saudi Arabia and Turkey are widely believed to be among major sponsors of terrorist groups operating against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The joint drills started only a day after Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asiri, a Saudi military spokesman, said Riyadh has dispatched warplanes to the Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey, claiming that the move was in line with the so-called fight against Daesh Takfiri terrorists in Syria.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Saturday that Ankara and Riyadh could launch a ground operation in Syria “if there is a strategy.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (AFP photo)

Meanwhile, Syrian Ambassador to Russia Riad Haddad said on Monday Ankara is planning a military incursion into Syria in order to save Daesh militants.

"They [Turkish authorities] claim they will enter Syria to attack Daesh. In reality, they want to interfere in Syrian affairs to save Daesh, to save terrorism in our country," Haddad said.

Earlier this month, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said Damascus would resist any ground incursion into its territory and would send the aggressors home "in coffins."

Iran and Russia have also warned against the deployment of foreign ground forces into Syria, calling it a dangerous move which could lead to a permanent war.

“All sides must be compelled to sit at the negotiating table instead of unleashing a new world war,” Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told Germany’s Handelsblatt newspaper on February 12.

Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani said on February 9 that a potential troop deployment by regional countries to Syria would be a “very dangerous” decision.

In addition to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have also expressed readiness to send soldiers to Syria.

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