Egyptian Foreign Minister: ‘Many Countries’ Discussing Potential Arab Force in Syria
Egypt’s foreign minister said on Friday that various countries are discussing the possibility of sending an Arab force to Syria, Reuters reported, citing a state-run Egyptian newspaper.
However, Sameh Shoukry did not say whether Egypt itself was ready to send troops or name the countries discussing the proposal.
“In regards to the situation in Syria, Shoukry said that the idea of replacing forces with another that may be Arab is a possibility,” Al-Ahram reported.
“This proposition is not only being discussed by the media, but also during discussions and deliberations amongst officials of states to look into how these ideas could contribute to stabilizing Syria,” Shoukry was quoted as saying by Al-Ahram.
Shoukry’s comments come one month after reports claimed the U.S. is in talks to establish a coalition of Arab military forces that could replace its military contingent in Syria.
Washington is reportedly seeking contributions from Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for a force that could help stabilize Syria once the so-called Islamic State is defeated and counter Iran if the U.S. chooses to reduce its footprint in the country.
Saudi Arabia last month said the kingdom was willing to contribute to the force.
White Helmets Say U.S. May Freeze Funding
The U.S. may freeze funding for the Syrian Civil Defense rescue group, also known as the White Helmets, the group’s chief told Agence France-Presse in comments published Saturday.
Raed Saleh said the U.S. has not informed the White Helmets directly of funding cuts. Instead, he said it was reviewing the financial support it offers the group.
“We were not formally told of any halt to funding, but what we were informed of was a freeze to some of the Middle Eastern projects by American organizations, in order to review their feasibility,” he said.
“Among them are projects linked to stabilization in Syria, which includes part of the White Helmets’ work,” Saleh added.
The U.S. said in April that it was reassessing funds for “stabilization,” without specifying which groups would suffer funding cuts.
Erdogan Threatens New Operations in Syria
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that Turkey may launch a new operation in Syria, Reuters reported.
A new campaign would be Ankara’s third in the war-torn country.
Turkish troops captured the district of Afrin from Kurdish forces in March as part of a campaign dubbed Operation Olive Branch. It also targeted ISIS and Kurdish fighters in parts of northern Aleppo as part of Operation Euphrates Shield, which was completed in early 2017.
“We will not give up on constricting terrorist organizations. In the new period, Turkey will add new ones to the Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations in order to clear its borders,” Erdogan said.
“We shattered the terror corridor being formed on our southern border with these operations. Our soldiers, who lastly wrote an epic in Afrin, are ready for new missions,” he said.
Erdogan has previously threatened to push further east of Afrin, toward the town of Manbij, where U.S.-led coalition forces operate alongside the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.
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