Russia's naval supply and maintenance site near Syria's Mediterranean port of Tartus will be modernized to accommodate heavy warships after 2012, the Russian Navy chief said on Monday.
"Tartus will be developed as a naval base. The first stage of development and modernization will be completed in 2012," Adm. Vladimir Vysotsky said, adding it could then serve as a base for guided-missile cruisers and even aircraft carriers.
The Soviet-era facility is operated under a 1971 agreement by Russian personnel.
Since 1992 the port has been in disrepair, with only one of its three floating piers operational.
According to Navy experts, the facility is being renovated to serve as a foothold for a permanent Russian naval presence in the Mediterranean.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in November 2009 Russia would increase its naval presence in the world's oceans.
Moscow announced in 2007 that its Navy had resumed and would build up a constant presence throughout the world's oceans. Once one the world's most powerful forces, the Russian Navy now has few ships regularly deployed on the open seas.
MOSCOW, August 2 (RIA Novosti)