Iran warships cancel request to cross Suez Canal

Iranian ships not seen among daily convoy after Lieberman calls the planned transit a "provocation."

iran warship 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
iran warship 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
CAIRO — A senior Suez Canal official says two Iranian warships have withdrawn their application to transit the waterway following expressions of concern by Israel over the plans.
The official said no reason was given for Thursday's decision to withdraw the application. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, also said it was not known if the vessels intended to transit the waterway at a later date.
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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.
Egypt's official MENA news agency, however, quoted Ahmed al-Manakhly, a senior Suez Canal official, as denying that the waterway's management had received any requests by Iranian warships to transit the canal.
Vessels intending to transit the Suez Canal, which links the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, must give the waterway's authority at least 24-hour notice before entering the canal.Only ships that don't meet safety requirements are banned from using the canal.
In the case of warships, a clearance from the Egyptian defense and foreign ministries is required in advance, but is rarely withheld.
The Israel Navy said on Wednesday that it was tracking two Iranian warships as they were set to make a rare crossing of the Suez Canal. Defense officials said Israel would monitor the ships, although their presence in the sea would not change anything for the navy’s operational deployment.
“It is strange for the Iranian Navy to use the Suez Canal since it really doesn’t have anything to do in the Mediterranean Sea,” one official said.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called the planned transit of the canal by the ships a “provocation that proves that the overconfidence of the Iranians is growing from day to day.”
Speaking at a meeting in Jerusalem of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Lieberman lashed out at the international community, which he said was not doing enough to confront Iranian provocations.
He also said he expected the world to “put the Iranians in their place. We are the true allies of the United States in the region, and the only ones that share its values. The international community needs to understand that Israel will not be able to ignore these provocations forever.”
State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said the US was monitoring the ships’ movements.
“There are two ships in the Red Sea – what their intention is, what their destination is, I can’t say,” Crowley told reporters in Washington.
“We’ll be watching to see what they do. We always watch what Iran is doing.” He declined to give further details.