Foreign fighters will go home in coffins: Syrian minister

(From agencies)

Syria will see any incursion on its territory as an act of aggression, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said on Saturday, days after Saudi Arabia announced it was ready to send in ground troops.

Walid al-Moualem

Walid al-Moualem

“Any ground intervention on Syrian land without the agreement of the Syrian government is an act of aggression … we regret that those (who invade) will return to their countries in coffins,” al-Moualem told journalists.

Bahraini and United Arab Emirates are also planning to commit troops to operate in concert with Saudis.

The Syrian foreign minister also said during a press conference in Damascus that Riyadh-formed Syrian opposition delegation at the Geneva peace talks suspended the negotiations after Syrian army’s advances.

A Saudi-backed opposition group walked out of the negotiations in Geneva on Wednesday, after which UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura announced the intra-Syrian talks were put on a three-week pause.

The Syrian leadership has requested the United Nations to present a list of people who will represent the opposition at the Geneva talks.

Muallem also said that the ceasefire in Syria cannot be reached until the country’s borders with Turkey and Jordan are taken under control.

According to an analyst, the fate of Saudi-backed Syrian armed opposition groups fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad is also a major concern for the kingdom.

“I think Saudi Arabia is desperate to do something in Syria,” said Andreas Krieg, of the Department of Defence Studies at King’s College London.

Krieg said the “moderate” opposition is in danger of being routed if Aleppo falls to the regime, whose forces have closed in on Syria’s second city, backed by intense Russian air strikes.

“This is a problem for Saudi and Qatar as they have massively invested into Syria via the moderate opposition as their surrogate on the ground,” said Krieg, who also serves as a consultant to the Qatari armed forces.

On Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s policy in Syria, Krieg said he has achieved nothing so far.

Syrians flee to Turkish border

Russian and Syrian government forces on Saturday intensified an assault on rebel-held areas around the Syrian city of Aleppo that has prompted tens of thousands to flee to the Turkish border to seek refuge.

Advances by the Syrian army and allied militias, including Iranian fighters, are threatening to cut off rebel-held zones of the city, still home to around 350,000 people, while more than a million live in government-controlled areas.

Mevlut Cavusoglu, foreign minister of Turkey, which has already taken in 2.5 million Syrians, said up to 55,000 were fleeing to the frontier.

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