Sunday, June 04, 2006

Russia May Relocate Warships to Syria

There are reports that Russia may relocate its Black Sea warships from the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol to a new base at Tartus, in Syria. From RIAN:
Vladimir Zimin, a senior economic advisor at the Russian Embassy to Syria, said Russia had simultaneously launched a modernization project at the port of Latakia, 90 km to the north of Tartus.

The paper quoted an anonymous source at the Defense Ministry as saying that Moscow was planning to form a squadron led by the Moskva missile cruiser within the next three years to operate in the Mediterranean Sea on a permanent basis, in particular for joint antiterrorist exercises with NATO forces.

Russia's Black Sea Fleet currently uses a range of naval facilities in the Crimea under a 1997 agreement that allowed Russia to continue its presence in its neighboring former Soviet republic for rent of $93 million per year.

The fleet is scheduled to withdraw in 2017, but Ukraine has recently voiced concerns that Russia is not paying enough for the facilities and also demanded that a new agreement be signed on inventorizing the bases. Russia has said it will make no concessions over rent or withdrawing the fleet and talks have stalled.

The Defense Ministry source told Kommersant that a Russian naval base in the Mediterranean would not only help Moscow strengthen its position in the Middle East - where it is currently also involved in negotiations on the Iranian nuclear crisis and the Israel/Palestinian issue - but also ensure Syria's security.

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