An energy deal between Moscow and Damascus could influence strategic calculations for both the civil war in Syria and the drive by regional powers to exploit offshore oil and gas deposits off the east Mediterranean coast.
The state-controlled Russian group Soyuzneftegaz and the Syrian regime this week signed a deal that allows for the exploration and drilling, development and production of oil and gas in a 2,190 square kilometer area off Syria's coast, the first-such deal for the country.
It might be years before the deal is implemented, analysts said. But the concession, which is to span 25 years, further solidifies Moscow's ties to Damascus ahead of a highly anticipated January conference in Switzerland in which the future of Syria may be negotiated.
"It's a way for the Russians to capitalize on their political support for the regime," said Jihad Yazigi, editor-in-chief of the Syria Report, an online economics publication.
(Read more: What's at stake for Russia in Syria)