On April 14, Kirpichenko welcomed the arrival of the Russian Navy's
nuclear-powered missile cruiser, Pyotr Veliky, to Tartous, Middle East Newsline reported. Russia has
modernized Tartous and deploys 50 naval officers to maintain and supply
warships that operate in the Mediterranean.
"The Pyotr Veliky's visit to the Syrian port of Tartus is a symbolic
event," Kirpichenko said. "It is a continuation of our historic ties with
Syria that serves as a guarantee of our future cooperation not only in the
naval sphere but also in other areas."
Officials said a large Syrian Navy delegation visited Pyotr Veliky.
Pyotr Veliky has been deemed the flagship of Russia's Northern Fleet and was
headed for an exercise in the Indian Ocan.
In September 2008, the Kremlin launched negotiations with the regime of
President Bashar Assad to convert Tartous into a permanent Russian Navy
base. Officials said Moscow also offered to modernize the Syrian Navy port
Tartous was said to have been expanded to accommodate large Russian
warships. Officials said Tartous, with three berthing floats, could handle
up to a dozen naval vessels.
Officials said the Russian Navy regards Syria as a vital base for
operations in the Mediterranean and surrounding regions. They said Moscow
has been training the Syrian Navy as part of the strategic arrangement.
"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," the
Moscow-based RIA Novosti news agency said.