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Moscow to Build Permanent Naval Base in Tartus | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The Russian Navy’s missile corvette Mirazh sails in the Bosphorus, on its way to the Mediterranean Sea, in Istanbul, Turkey, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

Riyadh, Moscow- After more than three decades of talks between Damascus and Moscow on building a naval soviet base in Tartus, Russia seems to be finally achieving its dream to set air and naval bases to defend Syria.

Russia will create a permanent naval base in Syria to expand its military footprint in its closest Middle East ally, a government official announced on Monday, a week after Moscow said it was considering reopening Soviet-era bases in Vietnam and Cuba.

Moscow’s announcement follows its fifth veto to protect Assad regime of a French draft that holds the regime fully responsible of the Syrian crisis. Tartus base is part of the price Syria has to pay for the Russians in return.

Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Kuzhugetovich Shoygu affirmed that “we will build a permanent naval base in Tartus. Preparations are ongoing…” The Russian party remained silent about details of the agreement which stipulates transforming the base in Tartus from a “maintenance workshop” to a military base –the base grants Russians a permanent naval military existence in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Soviet Union tried in the eighties of past century to seal a deal with Damascus to build a naval base in Tartus. The union needed this base for a couple of reasons including protecting the southern borders of soviet countries and reinforcing its presence in the Mediterranean region.

Damascus showed little support at the beginning but the increasing tension in the region affected the Syrian stance. Damascus, however, insisted that the Syrian Army should give orders to launch rockets but the soviets refused that.

Furthermore, the Syrian High Negotiations Committee (HNC) expressed willingness to pass on the French draft urging end to military flights in all the regions not only Aleppo, adding that the Security Council is paralyzed and unable to maintain peace because of the Russian repetitive veto.

HNC, in a news conference in Riyadh, considered Russia and Iran as occupation countries and their presence on the Syrian territories as illegal.