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Saudi in talks with US over troop deployment in Syria

Foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir says Riyadh is willing to send soldiers amid reports Trump is looking to exit Syria.

Al-Jubeir

Saudi Arabia is holding talks with the United States about sending troops into Syria as part of a wider international coalition, the kingdom's foreign minister has said.

In his comments on Tuesday, Adel al-Jubeir said the deployment offer was "not new", adding that Riyadh had previously proposed the idea to former US President Barack Obama.

"We are in discussion with the US, and have been since the beginning of the Syrian crisis about sending forces into Syria," al-Jubeir told reporters in Riyadh during a press conference alongside Antonio Guterres, the UN chief.

"We made a proposal to the [previous] Obama administration that if the US were to send forces … then Saud Arabia would consider along with other countries sending forces as part of this contingent."

The kingdom announced its readiness to deploy ground troops in 2016 to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) in Syria.

While Saudi's air force partook in the aerial campaign aimed at defeating ISIL from the very beginning in 2014, the Gulf kingdom stopped short of a full ground troop deployment.

US forces in Syria

The news came a day after the Wall Street Journal reported US President Donald Trump was looking to assemble an Arab force that would include Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to replace US military presence in Syria.

The force, which Trump's new National Security Adviser John Bolton hopes will include Egypt, would be in charge of stabilising the northeastern part of Syria, according to the report.

Another key question is what will happen to US troops in Syria and whether they are expected to stay as part of an expanded mission, added Culhane. 

"[It is] not at all clear that Trump is going to be OK with that," she added.

The US has an estimated 2,000 troops stationed inside Syria, according to the Pentagon. 


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