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KSA, Turkey get cold feet on Syria troops

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir (R) meeting his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, December 29, 2015 (photo by AFP)

Saudi Arabia and Turkey appear to be backpedaling on rhetoric to launch ground operations inside Syria, with officials saying they would wait for a go-ahead from the US and to see if a planned ceasefire transpires. 

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Tuesday Turkey will continue to take preventative measures to avoid becoming involved in the war in Syria.

He made the remarks in an address to members of his ruling AK Party in parliament as Turkey's military shelled a Syrian city across the border for the fourth straight day.

Both Turkey and Saudi Arabia have said they were waiting for a US nod after announcing their bid for ground operations inside Syria.  

Moscow and Washington said on Sunday Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama spoke by phone about a possible ceasefire.

The Kremlin said the phone call was at Washington’s initiative, and that the two leaders agreed to implement an agreement reached in Munich to determine the technicalities of a Syria ceasefire. 

On Tuesday, a Turkish official said Ankara would not launch an offensive in Syria on its own, even though it thought "there should be a ground operation."

"Turkey is not going to have a unilateral ground operation. We are asking coalition partners that there should be a ground operation. We are discussing this with allies," the official told reporters at a briefing in Istanbul.

The official, however, said four Saudi jets will be deployed to Turkey's Incirlik air base by end of February, which indicates earlier claims of warplanes having already been deployed to the base were not true. 

Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz had said on Sunday that Ankara had no intention of intervening in Syria. 

Meanwhile, a Saudi diplomat said the kingdom was “very serious” about sending ground troops into Syria, but would wait to see if the planned truce would take effect, The Independent reported.

The unnamed diplomat said Saudi Arabia and Turkey were largely “on the same page” concerning the potential deployment and that Saudi officials had discussed the possibility with Prime Minister Davutoglu.

“Turkey isn’t against the ground troops, but they want to say ‘we gave the peace process a chance,’” added the diplomat, whose name was not published.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, meanwhile, said, “The kingdom’s readiness to provide special forces to any ground operations in Syria is linked to a decision to have a ground component to this… US-led coalition.”

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