The photo taken on March 16, 2016 and released by the Russian Defense Ministry shows a Russian Il-76 transport plane rolling towards a runway before take-off at Hmeimim Air Base in Latakia, Syria. (Via AFP)

Russia's upper house of the parliament has approved an agreement with the Damascus government that allows the Russian Air Force to stay indefinitely in Syria.
On Wednesday, a total of 158 of 170 senators at the Federation Council voted in favor of the deal, which was unanimously passed last week by the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian legislature, with all 446 deputies present at the session supporting the accord.
The accord, which was signed in Damascus on August 26, 2015, permits the Russian Air Force to be stationed at Hmeimim Air Base in Syria’s coastal province of Latakia.
Under the agreement, the Russian Air Force will act on the orders of its commander and in coordination with the Syrian authorities. The Russian personnel will also be granted diplomatic immunity.
“Russia’s Air Force group will be located in Syria only for defense purposes, and it does not target third countries,” said Federation Council Committee on Defense and Security Chairman Viktor Ozerov, adding that the deal shows Russia’s “substantial input” into international efforts to stabilize the situation in Syria and marks “the beginning of a new geopolitical situation not only in the Middle East but also in the whole world.” 
Meanwhile, Franz Klintsevich, the first deputy chair of the committee, hailed the agreement as the “most favorable to Russia and its military contingent without infringing upon Syria’s interests."
Additionally, Konstantin Kosachev, the chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs, stressed that Russia's presence in Syria "fully meets the objectives of maintaining peace and stability."
Since March 2011, Syria has been hit by militancy it blames on some Western states and their regional allies. Moscow and Washington support opposing sides in the crisis.
Russia has been conducting airstrikes against Daesh and other terrorist groups in Syria at the Damascus government’s request since September 2015.
Putin: French Syria proposal only 'inflamed situation'
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin slammed France over its UN proposal on Syria, saying that Paris knew Moscow would veto the proposal.
"They put forward the resolution knowing that it would not pass ... in order to incite a veto," said Putin at an investment conference in Moscow, on Wednesday, adding, "Why? It was aimed at inflaming the situation and fanning hysteria around Russia."

Russian servicemen prepare an SU-24 fighter jet for a mission from the Russian Hmeimim military base in Latakia, Syria, May 4, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Putin accused French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault of reneging on the promises given during his Moscow visit last Thursday by ignoring Moscow’s proposed resolution on Syria and "blaming Russia for all the deadly sins" in Syria.
The Russian president noted that Paris is working in line with Washington’s interests, which is using this hysteria in the presidential campaign.
"This is especially valuable in the conditions of the pre-election campaign," Putin said, noting, "I don't know if that corresponds with the interests of European countries, but to serve foreign policy, even domestic policy interests of an ally, in this case the US, is that the role of ... serious states that claim to have independent foreign policy and call themselves a great country?"
'US, Russia could be heading to war'
In another development on Wednesday, Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus warned of a possible global conflict involving Russia and the US over Syria.
"If this proxy war continues, after this, let me be clear, America and Russia will come to a point of war," Kurtulmus said in an interview with Anadolu news agency.
The official also noted that the crisis in Syria had put the world "on the brink of the beginning of a large regional or global war".
The US and its regional allies such as Turkey call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down. Moscow, however, is a key backer of the Damascus government and supports President Assad in its anti-terror fight.