Two Iranian naval vessels have submitted a request to transit the Suez Canal, Egypt's Foreign Ministry said Thursday.
spokesman Hossam Zaki said Egyptian authorities received the
request to grant the vessels passage, while a Suez Canal official said
the Defense Ministry would process the application.
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Iran denied claims Thursday that it had canceled plans to send two warships
through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean Sea, saying that despite various
media reports the vessels were on their way to Syria.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman first
called attention to the Iranian intentions during a speech to the Conference of
President of Major American Jewish Organizations, terming the move a
“provocation” and calling on the world to “put the Iranians in their
But on Thursday, Egyptian authorities initially claimed that the ships had
never reached the waterway. A senior Suez Canal official was quoted saying that
the two Iranian warships had withdrawn their application to transit the
The official identified the two vessels as Alvand, a frigate,
and Kharq, a supply ship, and said they were en route to Syria. He said they
were now in an area near the Saudi Red Sea port city of Jiddah.
afternoon though, the Iranian press quoted navy officials who said that the
ships were set to cross the Suez and that the Iranian Navy was in touch with
Egypt to receive authorization for the crossing. Warships require approval from
the Egyptian Defense Ministry and Foreign Ministry before crossing the Suez
Israeli diplomatic sources said Thursday it was not clear whether
the Iranian warships’ failure to sail through the Suez Canal that day was
because of technical or logistical glitches, or because the Egyptian authorities
would not let the ships pass.
Israeli officials said Jerusalem has not
been in contact with the Suez Canal Authority in recent days.
the Foreign Ministry did not rule out the possibility that by making the Iranian
intentions public and bringing it to the attention of the world, Lieberman’s
comments scuttled the passage.
The foreign minister had no comment on the
But prior to meeting Cypriot Foreign Minister Markos
Kyprianou Thursday morning, Lieberman said, “Iran is taking advantage of the
protests in the Arab world not in order to bring about democracy and freedom of
speech, but to impose radical Islamic regimes. Iran has succeeded in building a
forward base on Israel’s northern border through Hezbollah, and a forward base
on Israel’s southern border though Hamas. We want to prevent the establishment
of a third Iranian base in Judea and Samaria.”
US Ambassador James
Cunningham, meanwhile, downplayed the significance of the possibility of the
warships sailing through the canal.
“I don’t think one ought to make too
much out of this,” he told Israel Radio during a visit to the family of Ahuva
Tomer in Haifa. “The Iranian ships are in various places around the region. I
think we can deal with whatever attempt they make, whatever show they make. I
don’t think it’s such an important thing.”
Cunningham was in Haifa
informing the family of Tomer, the Haifa police chief who lost her life in the
Carmel Forest fire in December, that she was the embassy’s nominee for the State
Department’s annual International Women of Courage Award.