Saudis say jets deployed in Turkey to fight DAESH

Senior Saudi defence official says jets allegedly sent to air base in Turkey for fight against DAESH

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Saudi jets were allegedly sent to Incirlik airbase in Turkey for fight against DAESH.

Updated Feb 15, 2016

Saudi Arabia allegedly deployed warplanes to a Turkish air base in order to "intensify" its operations against the DAESH in Syria, a senior Saudi defence official said late on Saturday.

"The Saudi kingdom now has a presence at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey," Brigadier General Ahmed al Assiri was quoted as saying by Al Arabiya television on Saturday.

"Saudi warplanes are present with their crews to intensify aerial operations along with missions launched from bases in Saudi Arabia," Assiri said, without providing further details.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Saturday that Saudi jets would be deployed at Incirlik and that the two countries could participate in a ground operation against DAESH in Syria.

Stressing that there is an intensive cooperation between Turkey and Saudi Arabia in many areas, including defence industry and strategy, Cavusoglu said “We have supported the initiative Saudi Arabia has offered to create a coalition and military force against terrorism. There will be intelligence sharing, troops and other elements. We think it can be useful, if applicable, so we support it.”

Riyadh and Ankara are both opposed to regime leader Bashar al Assad, whose foreign minister last week warned that any ground intervention would "amount to aggression that must be resisted."

Assiri said the decision to deploy an unspecified number of jets to Turkey followed a meeting in Brussels of US-led anti-DAESH coalition members who decided to step up their fight against the terrorist group in Syria and Iraq.

He stressed that the Saudis had made their decision in coordination with the coalition and a ground operation was being planned.

"There is a consensus among coalition forces on the need for ground operations and the kingdom is committed to that," Assiri said.

"Military experts will meet in the coming days to finalise the details, the task force and the role to be played by each country."

Cavusoglu also earlier emphasised that 65 countries who support anti-DAESH coalition should clear the terrorist organisation with air and land operations instead of hiding behind the terrorist organisation [PYD].

Turkey considers PYD and its militant wing YPG as Syrian extension of PKK which is recognised as a terrorist organisation by Turkey as well as NATO, the US and EU.

On Saturday, YPG militants started to shell a former military air base near the Turkish border.

Turkey struck YPG targets near the town of Azaz in northern Syria in retaliation under the Turkish Armed Forces' rules of engagement.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that the government warned the group many times to withdraw from the area, which has recently been captured by the group, however, it failed to comply with Turkish demands, shelling military outposts near the Turkish border.

"We will retaliate against every step [by the YPG]," Davutoglu told reporters during a recent televised broadcast.