Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has warned that the deployment of foreign ground troops in the Syrian conflict could result in a world war.
Medvedev was quoted as saying in an interview published late on Thursday by the German newspaper Handelsblatt that “a ground operation draws everyone taking part in it into a war”.
When asked about a recent proposal from Saudi Arabia to send in ground troops to Syria, the Russian prime minister answered that “the Americans and our Arab partners must consider whether or not they want a permanent war”.
Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands, reporting from Moscow, said Medvedev’s comments were an explicit warning to the United States and its regional allies, including Saudi Arabia.
“He basically told them to back off on sending troops because if they did, this might result in some sort of interminable or even a world war,” Challands said.
Medvedev also criticised Western powers’ refusal to collaborate with Russia in Syria. The prime minister said ties at the level of defence departments were only sporadic.
US defence chief Ashton Carter, meanwhile, welcomed a commitment from Saudi Arabia to expand its role with ground troops in Syria against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.
At a gathering of more than two dozen defence ministers at NATO headquarters, Carter said on Friday key ally the United Arab Emirates agreed to send special forces soldiers to Syria to assist in the development of local Sunni Arab fighters focused on recapturing Raqqa, ISIL’s de facto capital.
Carter declined to say how many Emirati commandos would go to Syria. He said they would be part of an effort led by the US and bolstered by Saudi special forces to train and enable local Arab fighters who are motivated to recapture Raqqa.
Saudi Arabia’s Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri said his country was ready to send troops into Syria if there was a consensus in the anti-ISIL coalition. But he declined to elaborate, saying: “It is too early to talk about such options. Today we are talking at the strategic level.”
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov intends to meet with his Saudi counterpart Adil al-Ahmad al-Jubayr in Munich, Germany on Friday, a Russian news report said.
Vyacheslav Matuzov, a former Russian diplomat, told Al Jazeera that Russia was not fuelling the Syrian conflict, rather it had prevented it from spreading.
Matuzov said he understood that a “cessation of hostilities” pact that world powers had arrived at in Munich on Thursday meant the only solution for the conflict had to be political.
“I think all groups would understand there is no solution but a political solution. Those who do not agree to stop fighting will be enemies, and will be destroyed, as I understand to be the result of Munich,” he said. – al-Jazeera