DUSHANBE, December 21, 2015, Asia-Plus – Asharq Al-Awsat reports that Tajikistan is considering an offer from Saudi Arabia to join a Muslim anti-terror coalition led by Saudi Arabia.
Tajik Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Azamsho Latifzoda reportedly noted that Tajikistan was seriously studying the possibility of joining the coalition at the first opportunity.
According to him, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon is scheduled to visit Riyadh in early January. He will hold talks with Saudi Arabia''s King Salman. The two sides will discuss cooperation in countering terrorism, including Tajikistan’s participation in the Muslim anti-terror coalition.
Asharq Al-Awsat (meaning "The Middle East") is an Arabic international newspaper headquartered in London.
We will recall that The Independent has reported the Saudi Arabia on December 15 declared the formation of a global “Islamic Alliance” of 34 countries to combat terrorism, following months of pressure for Gulf States to do more to tackle militancy within the Middle East.
The new coalition was reportedly announced at a rare press conference in Riyadh, where its center of operations will be based, but faced immediate criticism for a failure to denounce and target the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group specifically.
A statement issued via the state news agency SPA said a long list of Arab and largely Islamic countries had committed their support, including Egypt, Qatar, Turkey, Pakistan, Malaysia and Nigeria.
The Independent notes that Saudi Arabia’s main regional rivals, Iran, were not included in the list, nor was the Shia-dominated government of Iraq or the embattled regime of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.
And the statement reportedly made no direct reference to the growing dominance of the ISIS militant group on its border, instead citing the general need to “combat terrorism and to save international peace and security”.
The 30-year-old Saudi crown prince and Defense Minister, Mohammed bin Salman, presented the new alliance to reporters on Tuesday, according to the Reuters and AFP news agencies.
Asked if the coalition would focus on ISIS, bin Salman said it would confront “not only” that group but “any terrorist organization that appears in front of us.”
He reportedly provided little detail on the military make-up of the new force, and said only that it would “coordinate” with the existing US-led coalition, the bilateral alliance between Russia and Assad and other key players in the region such as Iran.
Those 34 countries did not include the six Muslim-majority republics of former Soviet Union, though Azerbaijan said that it was considering joining in.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed skepticism of the Saudi initiative. Military analyst Alexander Perenjiyev told RIA Novosti that the plan was aimed less at defeating terrorism and more toward helping Saudi Arabia in its “competition” for influence in the region with other powers.
IRNA reports that Amin Shalaby the executive director of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday that the coalition formed by Saudi Arabia to combat terrorism could be used in conflicts between Sunni and Shia Muslims. “It is clear that the Islamic Coalition is represented by Sunni countries only; will it not play into the hands of the conflict between Sunnis and Shiites? This is the most dangerous potential development for the region at the moment,” Shalaby was quoted as saying.