Russia secures military foothold in Syria for next half-century

Russia secures military foothold in Syria for next half-century
Russia and Syria have signed an agreement to expand Moscow's military foothold and fix its presence in the Mediterranean for at least the next 49 years.
2 min read
21 January, 2017
Moscow is to transform its naval facility in Syria's Tartus into a permanent base [AFP]
Russia will maintain a military stronghold in Syria for at least the next 49 years.

Moscow signed a long-term agreement on Friday to enlarge its military presence in Syria, more than doubling the space for warships in Russia's only Mediterranean port and securing rights to an air base.

The agreement covers the port in Tartus and the Hmeimim an air base near Latakia, which have been pivotal in Russian assistance to President Bashar al-Assad in fighting rebels.

The agreement ensures Russia's ability to deploy forces in Syria for the next 49 years at least, according to Russian state news agency TASS.

Eleven warships can be located at Tatrus at one time, including nuclear-powered combat ships, provided that nuclear and environmental safety is complied with.

The facilities will enjoy freedoms at the naval base including "full immunity from the civil and administrative jurisdiction of Syria. Its movable and immovable property enjoys immunity from search, requisition, arrest or executory measures".

Russian commaders and crew stationed there "shall not be subject to arrest or detention in whatever form by the Syrian authorities", the agreement states.

If neither Syria nor Russia gives 12 months' notice that either party wants to cancel the agreement, the contract will automatically renew every 25 years.

Moscow launched its bombing campaign in Syria in September 2015, helping to turn the tide in favour of Assad's ailing forces, targeting the second city of Aleppo.

Troops loyal to Russia's ally Assad finally ousted rebels from the city last month in their biggest victory in more than five years of fighting, paving the way for the Kremlin to launch a fresh push for a political solution to the conflict.

The agreement came on the same day Turkey announced it can no longer insist on a resolution of the conflict in Syria without the involvement of Assad, calling a settlement without the president remaining in power "unrealistic".