Russia set to build up its naval facilities in Syria
The Russian Navy will expand and modernize its Soviet-era naval maintenance site near Tartus in Syria to support anti-piracy operations off the Somali coast, a high-ranking navy source said on Monday.About 50 naval personnel and three berthing floats are currently deployed at the Tartus site, which can accommodate up to a dozen warships."Two tug boats from the Black Sea Fleet will deliver a new berthing float to Tartus," the source said."Following modernization, the Russian naval maintenance site in Tartus will become fully-operational," he added.The Navy maintenance site near Tartus is the only Russian foothold in the Mediterranean. Russian navy commanders have long been calling for the expansion and modernization of the Tartus base."The base in Tartus will provide all necessary support for the Russian warships which will be engaged in protecting commercial shipping around the Horn of Africa," the official said.According to the Russian Navy, the naval base in Syria significantly boosts Russia's operational capability in the region because the warships based there are capable of reaching the Red Sea through the Suez Canal and the Atlantic through the Strait of Gibraltar in a matter of days.Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, the deputy chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, said in January that the General Staff had backed the Navy command's proposal to develop naval infrastructure outside Russia.Russia has reportedly been involved in talks to establish naval facilities in Yemen, Syria and Libya, among other countries in the Mediterranean.
Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr arrives in Syria Posted : Mon, 20 Jul 2009 12:23:44 GMT Author : DPA Damascus - Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr arrived in Damascus on Monday, a source in the Sadrist movement's office in the Syrian capital told the German Press Agency dpa. The cleric, who has a broad following among poor Iraqi Shiite Muslims, was expected to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday afternoon, the source said, requesting anonymity. In his talks with senior Syrian officials, al-Sadr would discuss Syrian-Iraqi relations and "the situation in Iraq after the withdrawal of US soldiers from Iraqi cities" at the end of June, the Sadrist spokesman said. During his last visit to Damascus, in February 2006, al-Sadr urged Sunni and Shiite Muslims to set aside their differences to counter "the Western offensive against Islam and the Middle East." "The occupation is what is causing instability in Iraq," he said in remarks widely carried by the press at the time. "The exit of the occupier will be a victory for Iraq, and not, as it is said, a victory for the terrorists."
Russian Envoy Meets With Hamas in Syria Reported: 11:39 AM - Jul/19/09 (IsraelNN.com) Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and Mideast envoy Alexander Sultanov held talks with exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Syria on Saturday night, the official Syrian Arab New Agency (SANA) reported. The two discussed the developments in the Middle East, Palestinian Authority (PA)-Israeli peace negotiations, and reconciliation of PA factions at the meeting which took place in the Russian embassy. In a statement issued after talks, a Hamas spokesman called the talks "positive.” http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/Flash.aspx/168148