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Syria hands over its largest port to Russia

DAMASCUS: Syria’s parliament on Wednesday ratified a bill handing management of the country’s largest port to a Russian firm for 49 years, state media said.

A deal between Damascus and the Russian company Stroytransgaz for the management, expansion and operation of Tartus port was first signed in late April.

It is one of many lucrative contracts between Damas­cus and Moscow, which has a naval base in Tartus and has been a key ally of Presi­dent Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

The bill ratified on Wedn­e­­­­sday, which still needs to be approved by the Syrian pre­­sident, establishes a board of directors to oversee the management and ope­­ration of the port, the official SANA news agency said.

Under the agreement, the six directors would be split equally between Damascus and Stroytransgaz, but the board’s leadership would reserved for the Russian company, SANA said.

It also exempts the firm from paying customs and tariffs on imports for the duration of the expansion work, which is expected to take six years.

Parliamentarians said the expansion would benefit Syria’s ailing economy and represent an important step in support of the country’s reconstruction drive, accor­ding to SANA.

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