Russia upgrades military presence in Syria with 49-year deal

World Today

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, center, and Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, right, welcome UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, left, prior to their talks in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Syrian opposition groups have rejected Russia’s proposal for peace talks. They accuse Moscow of failing to pressure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to end the conflict, and they said next month’s talks undermine a stalled peace effort by the United Nations.

Meanwhile, Russia’s defense minister said Moscow is building up its military presence in Syria.

CGTN’S Julia Lyubova reports.

The Russian Defense Minister said that Moscow is establishing a permanent presence at its bases in Syria. It includes a naval base in Tartus and an air base in Khmeimim.

The Upper House of the Russian Parliament, the Federation Council, has ratified the agreement between Russia and Syria. It was signed in January of this year, and would allow Russia to keep 11 warships, including nuclear vessels, at Tartus.

Russia’s Lower House of Parliament, ratified the agreement, which lasts for 49 years and could be extended further, on Dec 21.

This comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin met with officials from the Russian Parliament. It was a traditional end-of-the-year meeting to sum up the results of 2017 and make plans for the year ahead.

Putin said Russia should scrap the 13 percent profit tax on funds repatriated from abroad, and renew an amnesty for businesses returning capital. Russia’s president had not previously spoken about these two initiatives publicly.

At the same meeting, Putin also commented on the situation in Afghanistan, and said that while the security in the country had weakened, the U.S. military presence there prevented it from deteriorating.