n navy determined to boost Mediterranean fleet as Syria tension rises - (Reuters)
Russia is determined to boost its naval fleet in the eastern Mediterranean despite the ongoing talks between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on Syria's chemical weapons stockpile.
The Russian navy said the country needs to bolster its forces to protect Moscow's interests in the region near the Syrian coast.
"The navy will increase its group in the Mediterranean until it reaches self-sufficiency in issues relating to the achievement to the set tasks. The tasks are very clear: to avoid the slighter threat to the borders and security of the state. It's [a] common practice for all fleets of the world: to be present in places where the level of tensions rises," the commander-in-chief of the Russian navy, Admiral Viktor Chirkov, told reporters.
Russia, a key ally of the Syrian regime led by President Bashar al-Assad, had moved landing and warships into the region as tension in Syria started rising. Russia will keep 10 warships stationed in the region, confirmed Chirkov. Presently, there are seven vessels.
Talks are under way for the second day between Kerry and Lavrov. Although the talks were previously expected to take place for two days, they could be extended.
The first day's talks were said to have been comprehensive but both sides remain divided on major issues.
Even though Assad had agreed to place his chemical weapons arsenal under international control, anti-Assad groups remain sceptical and say he is merely buying time. Some opposition groups also claim that Assad has begun moving the stockpile to other countries, including Lebanon and Iraq.
In another development, the UN has confirmed receiving Syria's application to join the Chemical Weapons Convention.
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