Russia sends warships to Syria

A Russian naval flotilla led by an aircraft carrier docked in the Syrian port of Tartus for a six-day visit Jan. 8, in what Damascus state media hailed as a show of solidarity by Moscow. Syrian Defense Minister Dawoud Rajha visited Russian carrier Kuznetsov at the port, where Russia has a recently expanded a naval base. Russian ambassador to Syria Azamat Kulmukhametov said the visit by the Russian vessels highlighted the strong ties between the two countries, but added: “Russia is very interested in achieving the aspirations of the Syrian people in democracy and stresses the importance of implementing the comprehensive reform program.” (Xinhua, Jan. 9) Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan meanwhile warned that Syria is heading towards civil war, and that NATO member Turkey should play a leading role in preventing this. “The situation in Syria is heading towards a religious, sectarian, racial war, and this needs to be prevented,” Erdogan told a news conference in Ankara. “Turkey has to take on a leadership role here, because the current situation poses a threat to Turkey.” (Reuters, Jan. 9)

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