Friday, April 13, 2012

Russia to keep warships off Syria coast: official

MOSCOW: Russia will keep a permanent naval presence off Syria's coast to match the growing number of Western warships monitoring the 13-month crisis, a top defence official said Friday.

"A decision has been taken to keep Russian navy ships permanently stationed near Syria's coast," the RIA Novosti state news agency quoted a senior defence ministry official as saying.

The unnamed source said the move was taken in response to the growing number of US warships in the region as well as those from European naval powers Britain and France.

Russia at the start of the month dispatched the Smetlivy guided-missile destroyer to the coast of its Soviet-era ally.

The defence source said several Russian warships -- including those capable of landing ground forces in Syria -- were now being prepared for Mediterranean Sea missions.

The next warship sent to the region "could be the destroyer escort Pytlivy or one of the big amphibious assault ships," the Russian defence official said.

Earlier reports said the Smetlivy ship Russia now has off Syria's coast had planned to dock at the Tartus naval base that Moscow leases from Damascus.

The Syrian port is the last Russia has in the Mediterranean after an era of Soviet naval dominance and Moscow is keen to preserve its rights to the site.

A Saint Vincent-flagged cargo ship operated by a Russian company that docked in Tartus in January was reportedly delivering munitions for regime forces despite a Western arms embargo on Syria.

The Daily Star


Post a Comment

<< Home