The Russian Navy is to modernise the naval supply and maintenance site near Syria’s Mediterranean port of Tartus to accommodate heavy warships.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Russia had plans to increase its naval presence in the world’s oceans.

Russian Navy Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky said Tartus would be developed as a naval base and the first stage of development and modernisation was scheduled to be completed in 2012.

He said the port would also serve as a base for guided-missile cruisers and aircraft carriers.

The Soviet-era facility had been in a state of deterioration since 1992 with only one of its three floating piers in active service.

The facility will be renovated to serve as a permanent Russian naval presence in the Mediterranean.