Russia says to create permanent naval base in Syria’s Tartus
REU photoRussia intends to establish a permanent naval base on the site of an existing facility it leases at the Syrian port of Tartus, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov said on Oct. 10, Russian news agencies reported.
Pankov’s statement is the latest sign that Moscow wants to expand its military footprint in Syria where it has been helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fight rebels since 2015. Moscow last week deployed S-300 surface-to air missiles to Tartus.
“We will have a permanent naval base at Tartus,” Pankov told Russian senators, according to Reuters. “The necessary documents are already prepared and are in the process of being approved by different agencies. We hope we can ask you to ratify these documents soon.”
Senator Igor Morozov told the RIA news agency that the decision would allow Russia to operate more ships in the Mediterranean as they would have an enhanced facility at which they could 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,” said Morozov.
Russia already has a permanent air base at Hmeymim in Syria’s Latakia province from which it launches air strikes against anti-Assad rebels.
Moscow inherited a Soviet-era naval facility at Tartus when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the Russian navy’s sole foothold in the Mediterranean. Despite some modernization, it is currently fairly modest and unable to accommodate larger warships.
Last week, three Russian warships passed Turkey’s Bosphorus and Dardanelles in order to reach the Mediterranean.
Russian warship “Mirage” on Oct. 7 passed through Istanbul’s Bosphorus strait, while Russian warships Zeleny Dol and Serpukhov traversed the Dardanelles just two days prior to that.
Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said he was calling on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Russia for possible war crimes in Syria.
Ayrault told France-Inter radio Oct. 10 that “France intends to get in touch with the prosecutor to find out how the probe can be launched,” according to the Associated Press.
Ayrault said France disagrees with Russia’s “bombarding” of Aleppo and “is committed as never before to saving the population.”
Russia on Oct. 8 blocked a U.N. Security Council resolution proposed by France and Spain on ending the hostilities. The following day, another proposal by Russia was rejected at the Security Council.
On Oct. 7, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called for a war crimes investigation into Russian and Syrian airstrikes in Syria, an appeal Russia has angrily rejected.