Tartous to become Russia's permanent Syria naval base
Russia's presence in the eastern Mediterranean could soon be fixed, as Moscow looks set to transform its naval facility in the Syrian port city of Tartous into a permanent base.
"In Syria we will have a permanent naval base in Tartous," Deputy Defence Minister Nikolai Pankov said.
This is the latest move by Moscow to bolster its forces in support of the Syrian regime - and fix its presence in the Mediterranean - as tensions with the West surge following the country's devastating bombing campaign of Aleppo in recent weeks.
Last week, Russia deployed its latest S-300 air defence missile system to Tartous and warned Washington it would halt any attempted US strikes on regime forces in Syria.
Moscow also sent three missile ships to reinforce its naval forces off the coast of Syria.
Pankov did not provide a timeline for turning the Tartous naval facility - which dates back to the Soviet era - into a permanent base.
He said the main purpose of the S-300s was to protect the Tartous naval facility.
Russian lawmakers on Friday ratified a deal with Syria on its "indefinite" deployment of air forces to the country, a move seen as paving the way for its jets to stay long-term.
The deal, signed between Moscow and Damascus in August 2015, allowed Russia to establish its Hmeimim airbase to launch operations last year.
Tensions have soured since Washington pulled the plug on talks with Moscow aimed at reviving a Syria truce deal, citing Russia's brutal bombing campaign.
Russia on Saturday vetoed a UN draft resolution on stopping Moscow and Damascus air raids on war-torn Aleppo, with the US calling for a war crimes probe into the carnage.