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UAE ready to send ground forces to Syria

The United Arab Emirates has said it's prepared to send ground troops to Syria as part of the international coalition fighting "Islamic State." The move comes after a similar pledge from neighboring Saudi Arabia.

Streitkräfte von den Vereinigten Arabischen Emiraten

Residents of Abu Dhabi greet a convoy of Emirati soldiers returning from Yemen

Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said Sunday it was his country's long-held position that a campaign to defeat the "Islamic State" (IS) group must "include ground elements."

"We have been frustrated at the slow pace of confronting Daesh," he said, referring to "IS" by its Arabic acronym.

The minister made the comments during a press conference in Abu Dhabi, days after neighboring Saudi Arabia said it was

ready to deploy ground forces

in Syria if the US-led coalition decided to launch such operations.

Gargash stressed that the Emirates would most likely participate in a training and support capacity, and was "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," he said, adding that "US leadership on this" would be a crucial factor.

Saudi Arabia and the Emirates have some of the region's most powerful militaries. They are both key

members of the coalition

fighting against Iranian-supported Shiite rebels in Yemen, and have also been involved in the US-led coalition fighting against "Islamic State" in Syria since September 2014.

Syria this week warned it would defend itself from any ground incursion into its territory by sending foreign soldiers home "in coffins."

The Syrian war began in 2011 as a popular uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, but escalated into a multisided conflict involving government troops, opposition forces, "IS" militants, Kurdish fighters and other groups. More than 260,000 people have died and millions have fled their homes in the five years of bloodshed.

nm/sms (Reuters, AP)

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