Vladimir Putin ratifies Syria air base deal sealing Russian presence there for half a century

Russian soldiers march during a rehearsal of the Victory Day Parade at the Russian Khmeimim military base in Latakia province, in the northwest of SyriaVasily Maximo/ AFP

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ratified an agreement with Syria which would allow Moscow's air force to stay in the war-torn country for another half a century. According to the official document published on the government website, Russia can use the Khmeimim Air Base in the Latakia province until 2066. There is also an option of extending that arrangement for 25-year periods once the initial agreement expires after 49 years.

The deal was originally signed by Russia and Syria in January 2017 in order to regulate the deployment of the Russian Air Force in Syria. Kremlin said the protocol was ratified by Putin on Wednesday, 27 July. Two assemblies of the Russian parliament – Russian State Duma and Senate – supported the agreement early in early July.

The field has been used by Russian forces to carry out air strikes against rebels opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who remains a key ally of Russia in the Middle East despite a strong opposition by the West.

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The deal not just regulates Russia's jurisdiction over the use of its military assets but also encompasses the maintenance of the forces for operational efficiency. The Syrian regime has allowed the Russian government to use the strategic base free of charge.

Moscow's intervention into the Syrian conflict has proved pivotal as it strongly tilted the war in favour of embattled Assad regime, which at one point of time was on the verge of losing to armed rebels. The Latakia air base remains Russia's vital asset at its disposal for launching air strikes since Moscow's first deployment of its air force in September 2015.

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