A plan to expand the Russian naval facility at the Syrian port of Tartus has been formally approved in Moscow.
On 29 December Russian President Vladimir Putin formally signed into law a plan that was agreed by Moscow and Damascus on 18 January 2017. This followed ratification of the agreement by the Duma on 21 December and the Federal Council on 26 December.
The Kremlin released a document saying the agreement covered the expansion of the territory of the Russian Navy’s logistics centre at Tartus, saying Syria is transferring land and water areas, as well as real estate, in the port.
The agreement also covers visits by naval vessels to all Syrian ports and territorial waters and the status of Russian personnel in the country.
It is valid for 49 years, at the end of which it will automatically be renewed for 25-year periods.
Russian media cited Deputy Defence Minister Nikolai Pankov as saying the agreement allows up to 11 Russian naval vessels – including nuclear-powered ones – to be present at the facility at any time.
The agreement has also been quoted as saying that Russia will be allowed to “install floating terminals and conduct dredging operations" at the port.
Meanwhile, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu announced on 26 December the creation of “permanent” forces in Syria. "Last week, the supreme commander-in-chief [Vladimir Putin] confirmed the structure and staff of the main base locations at Tartus and Humaymim [the primary Russian airbase],” he said. “We have started forming a permanent group there."
The precise composition of the force has not yet been disclosed, but Shoigu has said it will include three battalions of Military Police.
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