UAE says ready to commit troops to fight Syria jihadists

The UAE is a member of the US-led coalition carrying out air strikes against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq, and the country is now saying it is ready to commit ground troops (AFP Photo/Karim Sahib) (AFP/File)

Abu Dhabi (AFP) - The United Arab Emirates has said it is ready to commit ground troops against jihadists in Syria and described Russian air strikes in the country as attacks on a "common enemy".

Quoted by the official WAM news agency on Monday, Emirati State Minister for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said the UAE would "participate in any international effort demanding a ground intervention to fight terrorism".

"Regional countries must bear part of the burden" of such an intervention, he said during a Sunday discussion on Syria.

The UAE is a member of the US-led coalition carrying out air strikes against the jihadist Islamic State group in territory under the jihadists' control in Syria and Iraq.

As the jihadists have held out against more than a year of strikes and launched operations abroad including the November 13 attacks in Paris, there have been growing calls for the anti-IS intervention to expand to a ground force.

Russia launched its own strikes in Syria in late September and Iran has reportedly sent hundreds of troops to support President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Critics -- including in the West and Sunni Arab Gulf nations -- have accused Russia of targeting moderate rebel forces as well as jihadists.

In the UAE's first official reaction to the Russian strikes, Gargash said "we agree that nobody will be upset by the Russian bombardment of Daesh or Al-Qaeda as it targets a common enemy."

Daesh is an Arabic acronym for IS.

Gargash also suggested the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen -- which has seen Arab countries including the UAE send ground troops against Iran-backed rebels -- could be "an alternative model" to Western intervention in the region.

"The global strategy to fight terrorism is no longer fruitful or enough," he said.

On Sunday, US senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham called for 100,000 foreign soldiers, most from Sunni regional states but also including Americans, to fight IS in Syria.