Updated 2:12 PM EST, Wed, Jan 29, 2020

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Russia says New Tartus Agreement with Syria will Allow it to Control Mediterranean Sea


(Photo : Russian Navy) The Russian support facility at Tartus.

Russia will soon begin work on expanding its small naval facility at the Syrian port city of Tartus along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea into a heavily defended enclave protected by more surface-to-air; anti-ship missiles and aircraft from the Russian Aerospace Forces.

The Syrian and Russian governments signed an agreement on Jan. 18 offering Russia free use of Tartus for 49 years. The term can be automatically extended for further 25-year periods if neither side objects.

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The deal allows Russia to modernize its "Material-Technical Support Point," its technical term for its Tartus facility, so it can host up to 11 Russian Navy ships at a time, including nuclear-powered ones. Russia will also beef-up the air defense and sea defense systems protecting Tartus.

The Soviet Union first signed a deal with Syria to establish the facility in 1983.

Russian media said the agreement "will make it possible for Russia to control the entire Mediterranean region, the Middle East, North Africa and NATO's southern border more confidently."

"The mere fact of the presence of Russian warships and submarines, especially those armed with Kalibr cruise missiles, will make it possible to keep control of the entire region and repel any threats," said Igor Korotchenko, the editor-in-chief of the National Defense journal.

"Naturally, it will be a major factor to deter unfriendly actions against Russia by any regional and international players."

The public relations spin, however, is the Russian facility at Tartus will help "support peace and stability in the region," adding that "it has a defensive character and isn't directed against any other nation."

Tartus is the Russian Navy's only Mediterranean repair and replenishment facility. It can accommodate four medium-sized vessels but only if both of its 100 meter floating piers are operational. It can't host any of the Russian Navy's major warships, however.

Russia has used Tartus to back its campaign in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad against fighters battling to oust him in the Syrian Civil War.

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