Russia firm to take over Syria port for 49 years: Damascus

Russia has been a key ally of President Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria’s eight-year civil war. (AP)
Updated 25 April 2019
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Russia firm to take over Syria port for 49 years: Damascus

  • A deal would be signed for the “management, expansion and operation” of port of Tartus

A Russian firm is to take over Syria’s largest port for 49 years and invest $500 million in expanding it, the transport minister in Damascus said Thursday.

A deal would be signed for the “management, expansion and operation” of port of Tartus with Russian company Stroytransgaz, Transport Minister Ali Hammoud was quoted as telling pro-government newspaper Al-Watan.

“The length of the contract — 49 years — was decided after a feasibility study” so both sides could reap benefits, it said.

Russia has been a key ally of President Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria’s eight-year civil war, providing it with crucial military backing.

The minister on Tuesday told Syrian state television that the port, which started operating in the 1960s, was not deep enough to allow heavy ships to dock.

“Tartus is an old port whose docks range between four and 13 meters deep,” he said.

The current facilities are not suitable for ships heavier than 30-35 tons and “we needed to try to ensure very deep docks to accommodate cargoes of up to 100 tons.”

The expansion works are expected to increase the eastern Mediterranean port’s capacity from 4 million to 38 million tons a year, Hammoud said.

He told Al-Watan that the project would help lessen the burden of international sanctions against the Damascus regime since the start of the war in 2011.

On Saturday, Russian media quoted the country’s Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov as saying a deal for the port was in the works.

“We hope the deal will be signed within a week,” Russian news agency RIA Novosti quoted him as saying after meeting Assad in Damascus.

Backed by Russian air power since 2015, Assad has made great military gains against rebels and jihadists, and the regime now holds up to 60 percent of the country.

Even during the war, Russian companies have invested in Syria’s oil, gas and mining sectors and won contracts to build flour mills and water-pumping stations.


Japan PM Abe considering visit to Iran as early as mid-June: NHK

Updated 21 sec ago
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Japan PM Abe considering visit to Iran as early as mid-June: NHK

  • ‘Our country has traditionally had friendly relations with Iran’
  • Japan was a major buyer of Iranian oil for decades before the sanctions
TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is considering a visit to Iran as early as mid-June, NHK national television said on Friday, the first such trip in four decades, as global concern grows about rising tension between Iran and the United States.
The United States withdrew last year from an international nuclear deal with Iran, and is ratcheting up sanctions on the Middle East nation, aiming to strangle its economy by ending its international sales of crude oil.
The report on plans for the visit comes a week after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited Japan and met Abe and Foreign Minister Taro Kono.
Abe is likely to discuss his plans with US President Donald Trump when the latter visits Japan from Saturday and a final decision may rest on the results of that, NHK said.
Asked about the state of preparations for such a visit, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga denied the report.
Asked if it would figure in discussions with Trump, he said only that the talks would be “wide-ranging.” He declined to comment directly on what Japan might be able to do, in the context of its friendly ties with both nations.
“Our country has traditionally had friendly relations with Iran,” he said, adding that Japan hoped to be able to contribute to peace and stability in the region.
Japan was a major buyer of Iranian oil for decades before the sanctions. No Japanese prime minister has visited Iran since 1978.
During his visit to Japan, Zarif said Iran was committed to its obligations under the international nuclear deal despite the US withdrawal from the landmark agreement. He called the reimposition of US sanctions “unacceptable.”
Iran also denies the Trump administration’s accusations of possible Iranian plots against the United States and its allies.