Russian firm to take over Syria port: Damascus

A Russian firm is to take over Syria's largest port for 49 years and invest $500 million in expanding it, pro-regime media outlets reported Thursday (April 25th).

A deal would be signed for the "management, expansion and operation" of Tartous port with Russian company Stroytransgaz, Transport Minister Ali Hammoud told Al-Watan newspaper.

Russia has a naval base in Tartous and has been a key ally of the Syrian regime, providing it with crucial military backing, AFP reported.

The minister on Tuesday told Syrian state television that the port, which started operating in the 1960s, was not deep enough to allow heavy ships to dock.

Expansion works are expected to increase the port's capacity, he told Al-Watan, noting that the project would help lessen the burden of international sanctions against the regime that have been in force since the start of the war in 2011.

Russian companies have invested in Syria's oil, gas and mining sectors and won contracts to build flour mills and water-pumping stations.

Stroytransgaz, founded in 1991, is one of the largest construction companies in Russia. It is 80% owned by Kremlin-linked oligarch Gennady Tymchenko.

Russia's post-war ambitions are leading it to prolong its military presence in Syria and expand its political and economic influence.

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