Syria’s government has condemned the Norwegian government’s decision to send special forces to Jordan to train various Syrian groups to fight terror group ISIL. Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende said the harsh reaction from Syrian authorities was expected.
The Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) cited “an official source” as saying that “Syria denounced the statements made on Monday by the Norwegian Prime Minister on her country’s intention to send 60 special forces soldiers to train what she called ‘Syrian fighters’ under the pretext of fighting ISIS (ISIL).”
The source further asserted that “any decision that the Norwegian government intends to take in this context contradicts international legitimacy and the (UN) Security Council’s resolutions on combating terrorism…”
Norway’s troop training plan, according to SANA, “constitutes a blatant and unacceptable interference in states’ affairs and a flagrant violation of sovereignty, security and stability.” The Syrian government stressed that Norway’s plan “cannot be justified by saying that it’s part of combating terrorism, since it hasn’t been conducted in cooperation with the Syrian government.”
Brende, currently in the Middle East himself, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that he wasn’t surprised by Syria’s reaction to the Norwegian training plan. “This is an expected and extremely predictable reaction from the regime in Damascus, and like those we have seen them come with earlier,” Brende told NRK.
He said that 65 countries have now joined in the coalition against the terror group ISIL. “We are now in an extraordinary situation,” Brende said. “We must all stand together in this fight.”
Welcomed in Jordan
Asked whether he was worried, Brende said he was only concerned that Syrian leaders don’t do more to fight ISIL themselves, and that they instead attack both civilians and the moderate coalition. Brende stressed that the Syrian groups that will be trained won’t fight the Assad regime.
“We have made it clear that the mandate our soldiers have is to train Syrian groups in Jordan for use against ISIL,” Brende said.
The Norwegian government’s plan faces opposition at home as well, though, mainly because of fears that it will be difficult for the Norwegians to know who they’re actually training, and whether their efforts will be used in accordance with the mandate. Brende claims the groups will be carefully vetted and can be trusted. He said Jordan’s King Abdullah told him in a meeting on Wednesday that he welcomes the Norwegian contribution to the fight against ISIL, as does US Secretary of State John Kerry.