Russia to Use Syrian Port for Economic Purposes on 49-Year Lease

The Syrian naval port of Tartus will be leased to Russia for 49 years during the forthcoming week, with the country planning to use the facility “for economic and logistical purposes,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov told journalists on Saturday after meeting with Syria’s President Bashar Assad.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Assad met over two days with Moscow’s special envoy to Syria, Aleksandr Lavrentiev; Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin; Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov; and several Defense Ministry officials.

Officials said the meetings also included discussions on an upcoming round of peace talks and bilateral trade issues, as Moscow continues efforts to increase its influence in the Middle East.

Russian state-run TASS news agency quoted Borisov as saying that a contract on renting the Tartus port by Russia was expected to be signed soon.

“We have advanced quite substantially on this issue and hope that the contract will be signed within a week and the port of Tartus will be transferred for Russian business usage,” he was quoted as saying.

Russia, along with Iran, has given Assad crucial support throughout the country’s eight-year civil war, which began with a government crackdown on protesters in March 2011. The United States and Turkey have backed differing antigovernment fighters.