Russian warship Grisha class Corvette 617 ‘Mirazh’ passes the Bosporus on its way to Syria on October 7, 2016 in Istanbul. (Photo by AFP)
Russia has announced that it plans to set up a permanent naval base on a Mediterranean port in western Syria, a sign that Moscow is to increase its support for Damascus in its fight against terrorism.
Russian Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov said Monday that Moscow is going through the process for establishing the naval base at Tartus where it currently leases an existing facility from the Syrian government.
“The necessary documents are already prepared and are in the process of being approved by different agencies,” Pankov told Russian senators, adding, “We hope we can ask you to ratify these documents soon ... We will have a permanent naval base at Tartus.”
Other officials said the plan was meant to give Russian ships more freedom in the Mediterranean as the enhanced facility would allow them to refuel and resupply.
“By doing this Russia is not only increasing its military potential in Syria but in the entire Middle East and in the Mediterranean region as a whole,” Senator Igor Morozov told local media.
Tartus is Russian navy's sole foothold in the Mediterranean, a Soviet-era naval facility which is fairly modest and unable to accommodate larger warships.
Moscow has a permanent air base at Hmeymim in the neighboring province of Latakia. The base has greatly helped the Russians in their attacks on militants since an operation began last September at the request of the Syrian government. However, the plans for establishing a permanent naval base is expected to add to the current level of support that Russia provides for Syria’s fight against terrorism.
Through Russia’s military support, Syria has managed to retake key areas from militants across the country, especially in the north, where a fierce battle is currently going on to recapture the militant-held areas of the city of Aleppo. 

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