Russian nuclear cruiser makes port call in Syria
TARTUS (Syria), April 14 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's nuclear-powered missile cruiser Pyotr Veliky has arrived in Syria's Mediterranean port of Tartus ahead of Russian Navy drills in the Indian Ocean.
A large Syrian naval delegation accompanied by Russia's ambassador to Syria, Sergei Kirpichenko, visited the Russian warship on Wednesday.
"The Pyotr Veliky's visit to the Syrian port of Tartus is a symbolic event. 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," Kirpichenko said.
"I am certain that we will witness new and significant progress in our bilateral cooperation in the near future," he added.
Pyotr Veliky, the flagship of Russia's Northern Fleet, left the fleet's headquarters in Severomorsk on March 31 to join the warships of other Russian fleets, including the Moskva missile cruiser, in the Indian Ocean for large-scale naval exercises.
A naval maintenance site near the port of Tartus is the only Russian foothold in the Mediterranean.
About 50 naval personnel and three berthing floats are currently deployed at the Tartus site, which can accommodate up to a dozen warships.
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.
In September 2008, Russia was reported to be in talks with Syria about turning Tartus into a permanent base for Russian warships in the Middle East.
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