Beirut, Lebanon: Russia announced on Friday it was renovating a Syrian port for use by the Russian fleet in what signal an effort for a better foothold in the Mediterranean.

Syrian President Bashar Assad has increasingly reached out to Russia recently, including seeking weapons and offering broader military cooperation.

Friday's announcement was the first tangible sign of any new cooperation.

The Itar-Tass news agency reported on Friday that a vessel from Russia's Black Sea fleet had begun restoring facilities at Syria's Mediterranean port of Tartus for use by the Russian military.

The two countries' naval chiefs also met in Moscow on Friday and discussed "further strengthening mutual trust and mutual understanding between the two states' fleets," a Russian naval official, Igor Dygalo, told Itar-Tass.

Russian military experts said Tartus would be a considerable boost for operations in the Mediterranean.

"It is much more advantageous to have such a facility than to return ships patrolling the Mediterranean to their home bases," former Black Sea Fleet commander Admiral Eduard
Baltin said, according to the Russian Interfax-AVN service.

The former first deputy commander the Russian Navy, Admiral Igor Kasatonov, said Tartus "is of great geopolitical significance considering that it is the only such Russian facility abroad."