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Russia’s Kremlin Speeds Up Tartus Base Expansion

Russia’s Kremlin Speeds Up Tartus Base Expansion

Wednesday, 20 December, 2017 - 12:45
The Tartus naval base on Syria's Mediterranean Sea coast has been used by the Russian navy since the early 1970s, but has recently taken on a new -- and unclear -- purpose. Above, the Russian amphibious landing vessel Caesar Kunikov (left) is shown leaving the bay of the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Sevastopol June 19, 2012. Photo: Reuters/Stringer

Russian President Vladimir Putin has referred the expansion of the Russian naval facility in Tartus to the State Duma. The parliament, in turn, confirmed its readiness to ratify the agreement by the end of this year.

State Duma is the lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia, while the upper house being the Council of the Federation.

The agreement was signed by the Russian Defense Ministry and the Syrian regime’s Defense Ministry on January 18, 2017, in Damascus.

Under the terms of the agreement, Russia has the right to use the naval base for 49 years, a period which commences as of signing and can be automatically extended for an additional quarter a century, without a fee.

Eleven Russian naval vessels are allowed to coincidentally dock at the base. Russia had begun construction on the extension before the signing of the agreement.

Russian labor aims to transform the base into a major hub able to host Russian fleet vessels, including nuclear submarines. The agreement also grants Russian individuals and their families present at the base diplomatic immunity across Syrian territory.

The Russian government announced on December 5 that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed the Tartus agreement and referred it to the Russian presidency for approval, and later presented it to both Houses of the Russian Parliament for ratification.

Russian parliamentary speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said that the council plans to ratify the agreement by the end of this year.

"If the Duma sees to the agreement hastily, we are ready to ratify it by the end of the year," said Frants Klintsevich, First Deputy Head of the Federation Council (upper house) Committee on Defense and Security.

The move comes to litigate all arrangements to use Tartus base, while the withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria continues at an "active" pace for the second day in a row.

Meanwhile, Russia’s special operations medical team returned home from Syria. According to data from the Russian Defense Ministry, over 200 military medical personnel were deployed on Syrian territory.

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