MOSCOW, RUSSIA — Russia plans to boost its presence in the Middle East by building a grain hub at the Syrian por of Tartus, the Associated Press reported.

Construction could start next year, according to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov. Russia rented out the port for 49 years from Syrian officials, starting in 2017.

Borisov said Russia will spend $500 million to overhaul the old port and build a new one. The plans also call for a railway across Syria and Iraq that will link Syria’s Mediterranean coast with the Persian Gulf, the AP said.

The Russia Navy also has a facility at Tartus, the AP said. Russia has said in the past that it plans to expand and modernize the port facility for its fleet.