Russia modernizing Syria ports for its warships

World Tribune (Link) (April 15, 2010)

The Russian Navy has been expanding cooperation with Syria. Officials said the navies of Russia and Syria were enhancing cooperation over the last year. They said Moscow was modernizing naval facilities in Syria�s port of Latakia and Tartous to accommodate Russian Navy warships.

�I am certain that we will witness new and significant progress in our bilateral cooperation in the near future,� Russian ambassador to Syria, Sergei Kirpichenko, said.

On April 14, Kirpichenko welcomed the arrival of the Russian Navy�s nuclear-powered missile cruiser, Pyotr Veliky, to Tartous. Russia has modernized Tartous and deploys 50 naval officers to maintain and supply warships that operate in the Mediterranean.

�The Pyotr Veliky�s visit to the Syrian port of Tartus is a symbolic event,� Kirpichenko said. �It is a continuation of our historic ties with Syria that serves as a guarantee of our future cooperation not only in the naval sphere but also in other areas.�

Officials said a large Syrian Navy delegation visited Pyotr Veliky. Pyotr Veliky has been deemed the flagship of Russia�s Northern Fleet and was headed for an exercise in the Indian Ocan.

In September 2008, the Kremlin launched negotiations with the regime of President Bashar Assad to convert Tartous into a permanent Russian Navy base. Officials said Moscow also offered to modernize the Syrian Navy port at Latakia.

Tartous was said to have been expanded to accommodate large Russian warships. Officials said Tartous, with three berthing floats, could handle up to a dozen naval vessels.

Officials said the Russian Navy regards Syria as a vital base for operations in the Mediterranean and surrounding regions. They said Moscow has been training the Syrian Navy as part of the strategic arrangement.

�According to the Russian Navy, the naval base in Syria significantly boosts Russia�s operational capability in the region because the warships based there are capable of reaching the Red Sea through the Suez Canal and the Atlantic through the Strait of Gibraltar in a matter of days,� the Moscow-based RIA Novosti news agency said.