By James Holbrooks at theantimedia.org
If there was ever any question, Russia signaled Monday it intends to be involved in Middle Eastern affairs for a very long time, as Russian officials announced plans to build a permanent naval base in Syria right as Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan sealed the deal on a new oil pipeline in Turkey.
“In Syria, we will have a permanent naval base in Tartus. The corresponding documents have been drafted,” Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov said at a Federation Council meeting on Monday. “We hope that we will soon ask you to ratify these documents.”
Reuters described the move as “further evidence Russia is building up its capabilities in Syria” and “another sign it is digging in for the long haul to help prop up President Bashar al-Assad.”
Russia already has a permanent air base in Syria, from which it conducts joint strikes with the pro-Assad Syrian military against U.S.-backed rebels.
As the deputy defense minister was making his comments in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Erdogan attended a gathering of the World Energy Congress in Istanbul, where each expressed a desire to move forward with the long-proposed Turkish Stream pipeline.
“We are providing energy for the EU for the past 50 years. We are now working on a second project,” Putin said at the meeting.“We are discussing the Turkish Stream with Erdogan and our other partners and we want to bring this about.”
As a separate meeting, Erdogan said, “We look positively at the Turkish Stream project. Our efforts are continuing.”
The pipeline, which was first proposed in 2014, will carry natural gas through Turkey and on to the European Union. It marks a further strengthening of ties between Turkey and Russia that began back in August.
As Underground Reporter highlighted earlier this year, Putin and Erdogan reportedly “buried the hatchet” regarding the shootdown of a Russian jet by Turkish forces at a meeting between the two men in St. Petersburg. Talks about proceeding with the Turkish Stream pipeline began immediately after.
Friendly cooperation between Russia and Turkey presents something of a problem for the United States, with Turkey, a supposed American ally, and Russia supporting the Assad regime the U.S. has worked so hard to eliminate. The situation was further complicated when Turkish tanks rolled across the border into northern Syria in late August.
Since then, the violence has intensified. The latest attempt by the U.S. and Russia at achieving a Syrian ceasefire was a disaster, and diplomacy officially cratered last week when the U.S. suspended talks with Russia and Putin reneged on a nuclear pact with Washington.
Now, with Russia announcing plans to establish a permanent naval base in Syria and Putin locking the pipeline deal with Erdogan, one thing is being made abundantly clear — Russia, despite the wishes of those in Washington, D.C., has no intention of backing out of the Middle East anytime soon.
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