BRUSSELS — Belgium is ready to send ground troops to Syria as part of an international coalition but "we must first re-establish order," the country's defense minister, Steven Vandeput, said on Saturday.
Belgium has been a member of the US-led coalition against the Islamic State (IS) group in Iraq since September last year, sending six F-16 jets and 120 personnel to join airstrikes, from a base in Jordan.
"If a similar coalition is created in Syria, we cannot stay on the sidelines," Vandeput said in an interview published in Belgium's Flemish newspaper De Morgen.
European powers have been more reluctant to join the US-led coalition against IS in Syria, which has received the military support of several Arab states and Turkey.
"There are no other solutions in the long run but to deploy troops to re-establish peace. Otherwise military action makes little sense," Vandeput added.
"We must first re-establish order in Syria and then stay on the ground to protect it," he said, referring to the chaos in Libya that followed a NATO-backed revolt that unseated longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi.
"The troops with whom I am speaking are ready. We are not going to play Rambo, but if clear conditions are established, I am ready to send Belgian troops to the territory of Syria," Vandeput said.
He said it was about carrying out "follow-up missions," like monitoring camps Belgian troops operate in Mali.
In the De Morgen interview, he ruled out having Belgian troops take part in heavy battles.