The Latest: Russia moves to extend lease of Syria naval base

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BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the Syrian conflict (all times local):

3:15 p.m.

The upper chamber of the Russian parliament has voted to extend Russia's lease of a naval base in Syria for 49 years.

The vote at the Federation Council on Tuesday follows a similar endorsement by the lower chamber last week.

Russia's air campaign in Syria, which began in September 2015, helped turn the tide of the civil war in favor of Moscow's long-time ally, President Bashar Assad. Even though Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this month announced a partial pullout of troops from Syria, Russia is determined to keep its military presence there.

The agreement, which now needs Putin's signature before it comes into effect, allows Russia to keep its warships at the Mediterranean base in Tartus for 49 years.


2:35 p.m.

Syrian rebel fighters and opposition groups have blasted Russia's role in Syria, strongly rejecting its proposed peace talks expected next month.

In a series of statements Tuesday, 40 rebel groups, including some of Syria's most prominent, as well as political opposition umbrella groups, said Moscow's proposed talks are an attempt to "circumvent" the United Nations-led process.

Russia's proposed talks are scheduled for Jan 29-30 in Sochi, announced following the latest fruitless round of U.N.-led Geneva talks. The U.N. Special envoy for Syria said he would assess whether Sochi talks would support the U.N.-led political process.

The rebel groups said Moscow has asked the opposition to give up their demand for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down, while failing to pressure his government to pursue "a path to real resolution."

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