Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov said that Russia will spend $500 million to modernize Syria’s commercial port of Tartus. The four-year modernization program envisages an overhaul of the old port in Tartus and the construction of a new one.
Russia plans to invest $500 million in the Syrian port of Tartus and build a grain hub there to boost its presence on Middle East markets, Interfax news agency cited Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov as saying. Tartus is the home of Russia’s sole naval base outside the former Soviet Union and gives Moscow a critical beachhead in the Mediterranean. In 2017, Russia struck a deal to lease Tartus for 49 years and expand its use to civilian business purposes, and has said it plans to make it a centrepiece of efforts to rebuild the country’s destroyed economy.
Russia, the world’s largest wheat exporter, has stepped up grain supplies to support Syrian President Bashar Assad in recent years since Moscow’s 2015 military intervention on his behalf in Syria’s civil war.
“The Russian side intends to improve the operations of the old port and build a new commercial port,” Yuri Borisov, Russian deputy prime minister, told reporters after meeting Mr Assad in Damascus. “The overall amount of investment within the next four years is estimated at $500m,” he said. Construction of the necessary infrastructure at the port, which Russia rented out for 49 years from Syrian authorities in 2017, could begin 2020, Borisov was quoted as saying. He also told Assad that Russia will deliver 100,000 metric tons of grain as part of humanitarian assistance to Syria. Borisov said motorways, airports and a railway connecting Tartus to Iraq that would allow goods to be shipped to the Gulf were also discussed.
While Syria’s near nine-year war is continuing in some parts of the country, Moscow is pushing efforts to find a post-conflict peace settlement and drum up international finance to rebuild the country’s infrastructure.
Russian ports in Blacksea have exported grain to the port of Tartus in recent years to ensure Assad’s Syria has a reliable source of food. Syria’s Mediterranean coastal region has remained under firm government control throughout the war.
The Russian Navy also operates a military facility at Tartus, Russia’s only naval foothold in the Mediterranean, and Moscow has previously said it plans to expand and modernize the port’s facilities for its fleet.