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15:06 GMT +3 hours21 December 2014
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Syria hails visit of Russian warships to Tartus

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Syrian authorities have called the visit of a Russian naval task force to the port of Tartus a “show of solidarity with the Syrian people,” the official SANA news agency reported.

Syrian authorities have called the visit of a Russian naval task force to the port of Tartus a “show of solidarity with the Syrian people,” the official SANA news agency reported.

A Russian task force, led by the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, arrived in Tartus on Sunday to replenish water and food supplies during a long-term training mission in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.

“We highly respect Russia’s honorable stance in support of the Syrian people,” SANA cited Governor of Tartus Atef al-Naddaf as saying.

Russia maintains a Soviet-era naval maintenance site near Tartus as its only military foothold in the Mediterranean. Moscow is planning to modernize the facility to accommodate large warships, including missile cruisers and even aircraft carriers after 2012.

The Russian Defense Ministry reiterated on Sunday that the visit of Russian warships to Tartus was not related to the current political crisis in Syria, and said the task force would leave the port on January 9 to continue with the training mission.