Norway joins the US-led coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in launching an offensive against the Syrian city of Raqqa, a key stronghold of the terror group, in an effort to drive the extremist group from the region.
A Norwegian delegation is expected to arrive in Syria on Sunday to begin preparations for a major deployment of troops, air support and logistical support, Norway’s defense minister said Friday.
The Norwegian government, which is currently negotiating with Russia on how to join the coalition, announced the deployment of around 1,500 troops in a statement issued late on Friday.
It comes amid mounting concern over the escalating crisis in Syria, with both Moscow and Washington signaling that they would seek to end the fighting before the end of the year.
In the meantime, a United Nations team said Friday that more than 6,000 people had been killed in the fighting, with some 4,500 wounded.
The United Nations said on Thursday that it had collected information that more then 1,400 people had died in Syria since the start of the month.
It said it was “aware of reports of casualties from government and armed forces operations in the east of Aleppo.”
Norway’s foreign ministry also confirmed on Friday that Norwegian troops were in Syria.
It was the first time the country had joined the United States-led operation against ISIL, which has been accused of killing more than 700 people in its self-declared caliphate.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Torbjorn Jagland said Friday in Oslo that Norway’s involvement in the campaign against ISIL was not aimed at toppling Assad, but was aimed at pushing back on the group.
Norway has also sent a delegation to the UN Security Council to discuss the Syrian crisis, and has been criticized for not doing more to push back against the extremist groups.
Russia, the main backer of Assad, said Friday it was prepared to work with Norway to defeat ISIL, adding that it would take “a comprehensive, coordinated approach.”
Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Alexander Lukashevich, also said Friday Russia was ready to take measures to ensure that the international community understood that the Russian side has a responsibility to support the efforts of its allies.
“Russia is ready to work in the Security Council, in this context, to ensure all the relevant parties and international actors take effective measures to support our allies in Syria and Iraq,” Lukashenvich said.