Damascus and Moscow have signed a deal that effectively grants Russia control of the Mediterranean port of Tartus for the next 49 years. According to the bilateral agreement, the Russian firm Stroytransgaz will attain the right for the “management, expansion and operation” of the strategic port for the next 49 years, in return for an investment of 500 million U.S. dollars. The announced deal was hailed by Syrian Transport Minister Ali Hammoud as an important step in rebuilding Syria, while further claiming that the agreed-upon Russian expansion will increase the eastern Mediterranean port’s capacity from 4 million to 38 million tons a year.
The Russian-Syrian deal comes less than a month after Damascus made a separate arrangement with Tehran, in which Iran had leased parts of Syria’s second-most strategic Mediterranean port of Latakia. The Syrian arrangement with the Iranians came in response to an official request from Tehran, that was reportedly presented to Damascus last February. According to reports, the Latakia port agreement gives the Islamic Republic the right to use a Syrian harbor with 23 warehouses solely for economic purposes. No details were made available regarding to the economic benefits that were presented to the Syrians in return.