By Bethan McKernan, Reuters:
Russia has signed a long-term agreement with the Syrian government to greatly expand its military presence in the country, despite a recent statement from the Russian army’s chief of staff that Moscow would begin a military exit from the Syrian conflict.
Russia currently maintains two army bases in government-held Syria.
The new agreement, signed on Friday, will double the amount of space available for Russian warships in the port city of Tartous, taking the number of berths available up to 11, and give Russian forces an airbase, which may be expanded to include a second runway.
Tass, the Russian news agency, said that the agreed leases would last 49 years, and could be renewed for a further 25.
Russian military power since September 2015 has been instrumental in helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gain the upper hand in the almost six-year-long war and regain control of Aleppo, which was captured from rebel forces in December.
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