ANKARA – Saudi jets are due to arrive at a Turkish base this week take part in the air campaign against Islamic State jihadis in Syria, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday.
“We are expecting the planes to arrive today or tomorrow (Friday),” Cavusoglu told the state-run Anatolia news agency, adding that Saudi equipment and personnel had already arrived on the ground.
The planes are to be stationed at the Incirlik base, which is already hosting U.S., British and French war planes taking part in the strikes against IS fighters in Syria.
Private NTV television said four Saudi F-15 jets would arrive at Incirlik on Friday. It said that 30 ground personnel and equipment had already arrived aboard C-130 Hercules military transport planes on Tuesday.
Saudi Arabia and Turkey both see the ousting of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as essential for ending Syria’s five-year civil war and are bitterly critical of Iran and Russia’s support of the Syrian regime.
The two overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim powers have in recent months moved to considerably tighten relations that had been damaged by Riyadh’s role in the 2013 ousting of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, a close ally of Ankara.
Ankara has said it is in favor of a ground operation in Syria, but only if it is conducted in coordination with Saudi Arabia and other Western and Gulf members of the anti-IS coalition.
“We have since the beginning argued for the necessity of ground operations and all kinds of strategic moves to be carried out in addition to the air campaign,” Cavusoglu said.