Russia Establishing Permanent Military Presence in Syria
Russia Establishing Permanent Military Presence in Syria

Russia Establishing Permanent Military Presence in Syria

Russia Establishing Permanent Military Presence in Syria

Russia has started establishing a permanent military presence at naval and air bases in Syria, the defense minister said on Tuesday as parliament ratified a deal with Damascus to cement Russian presence in the country, the RIA news agency reported.
The deal, signed on Jan. 18 will expand the Tartus naval facility, Russia’s only naval foothold in the Mediterranean, and grant Russian warships access to Syrian waters and ports, Viktor Bondarev, head of the upper house security and defense committee, told RIA, Reuters reported.
RIA news agency separately quoted Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu as saying, “Last week the commander-in-chief (President Vladimir Putin) approved the structure and the bases in Tartus and in Hmeimim (air base). We have begun forming a permanent presence there.”
The Tartus naval facility, in use since the days of the Soviet Union, is too small to play host to larger warships.
According to the RIA report, the agreement will allow Russia to keep 11 warships at Tartus, including nuclear vessels. The agreement will last for 49 years and could be prolonged further.
The Hmeimim air base, from which Russia has launched numerous airstrikes in support of President Bashar al-Assad during his war with rebels, can now be used by Russia indefinitely, according to the deal.
  Rebels Reject Sochi Conference
Meanwhile, Syrian rebel groups on Monday rejected Russia’s planned Sochi conference on Syria, saying Moscow was seeking to bypass a UN-based Geneva peace process.
 In a statement by around 40 rebel groups that include some of the military factions who participated in earlier rounds of Geneva peace talks, they said Moscow had not put pressure on the Syrian government to reach a political settlement.
Russia, which has emerged as the dominant player in Syria after a major military intervention over two years ago, received backing from Turkey and Iran for holding a Syrian national dialogue congress in the Russian city of Sochi on Jan. 29-30.
UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said that Russia’s plan to convene the congress should be assessed by its ability to contribute to and support the UN-led Geneva talks on ending the war in Syria.


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