Syria says any foreign troops would return 'in coffins'

Syria says any foreign troops would return 'in coffins'
The Syrian regime has warned against any foreign ground 'aggression' after Saudi Arabia said it was willing to send ground troops to Syria as part of a US-led military campaign.
3 min read
06 February, 2016
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem spoke on Saturday at his ministry in Damascus [Getty]

Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem warned on Saturday that Saudi or other foreign ground troops entering Syria would "return home in wooden coffins."

His comments came after Saudi Arabia said earlier this week it would be willing to send troops as part of a US-led military campaign against Islamic State extremists. The group controls large parts of Syria and Iraq.

Moallem said conventional wisdom and logic would suggest the entry of Saudi troops is unlikely, but that "with the crazy Saudi leadership nothing is far-fetched."

"Any ground intervention in Syria, without the consent of the Syrian government, will be considered an aggression that should be resisted by every Syrian citizen," he told a news conference in Damascus. "I regret to say that they will return home in wooden coffins."

He repeated the line three times during the one-hour press conference, saying it applies to anyone who attacks Syria with ground troops. 

However, Russia began a bombing campaign in Syria last year to back up those fighting for its longstanding ally, President Bashar al-Assad.

Syrian opposition groups have accused Moscow of mainly targeting moderate rebels fighting the Assad regime as well as inflicting civilian casualties, a view shared by Western governments too.

"Since the Russian bombing campaign began, thousands of civilians have been killed, including children. They claim they have helped recapture parts of Idlib, Latakia and Aleppo from IS, but IS was not in these areas except for in a few villages," Rami Abdulrahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told The New Arab.

Since the Russian bombing campaign began, thousands of Syrian civilians have been killed, including children
- Rami Abdulrahman, SOHR

Russia's Defence Ministry on Thursday said it had "reasonable grounds" to suspect Turkey is making intensive preparations for a military invasion of Syria.

Moallem's comments capped a week that saw the collapse of UN-led efforts to launch indirect peace talks between the Syrian government and an opposition delegation in Geneva.

The talks broke down in large part because of Syrian government offensives, including on the outskirts of Aleppo, the country's largest city and one-time commercial centre.

The offensive, aimed at encircling rebel strongholds in Aleppo, was backed by intense Russian airstrikes and sent tens of thousands of area residents fleeing toward a closed Turkish border.

Opposition representatives have said they cannot be expected to negotiate in Geneva at a time when the Syrian government and its allies, including Russia, are escalating attacks on rebel strongholds.

Around 260,000 people have been killed in the conflict since March 2011. More than 50 percent of Syria's population is displaced, while 13.5 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria.