UAE says it’s prepared to send ground forces to Syria

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — A top official in the United Arab Emirates said Sunday that his country is prepared to send ground troops to Syria to fight Islamic State militants as part of an international coalition.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash made the comments in the federal capital of Abu Dhabi, days after Saudi Arabia said it is ready to deploy ground forces if leaders of the U.S.-led international coalition fighting the group call for it.

Gargash said it has been the Emirates’ long-held position that a campaign to defeat the group “has to include ground elements,” though his latest comments took on added weight in light of Riyadh’s pledge last week.

“We have been frustrated at the slow pace of confronting Daesh,” Gargash said in response to a question from The Associated Press, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.

He stressed that any deployment would be relatively small, saying that “We’re not talking about thousands of troops.”

“We are talking about troops on the ground that will lead the way, that will train, that will support and so forth. And I think our position remains the same and we will have to see how this progresses,” he said. “Of course an American leadership in this effort is a prerequisite also.”

Saudi Arabia’s military spokesman said late Thursday that the kingdom is determined to defeat the Islamic State group and could provide ground troops if coalition members agree to such a deployment when defense ministers meet in Brussels later this month.

Saudi Arabia and the Emirates are the two largest Arab economies and boast some of the region’s most powerful militaries. They are close allies and are the driving force behind a Saudi-led coalition fighting on the side of Yemen’s internationally recognized government against Iranian-supported Shiite rebels in Yemen.

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