Reuters: Iranian warships, which Israel reported would cross the Suez Canal overnight, did not enter the canal with the daily convoy on Thursday that heads from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, a canal official said.
ISMAILIA, Egypt, Feb 17 (Reuters) – Iranian warships, which Israel reported would cross the Suez Canal overnight, did not enter the canal with the daily convoy on Thursday that heads from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, a canal official said.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman had said two Iranian warships planned to sail through the canal en route to Syria overnight on Wednesday, describing it as a “provocation”.
The northbound ship convoy starts entering the canal from the Red Sea end at 6 a.m. (0400 GMT) daily, the Suez Canal website says. Ships head south from the Mediterranean at other times of the day.
“No Iranian warships ships crossed the Suez Canal today. The Suez Canal does not have any Iranian warship on its waiting list for tomorrow Friday,” said Ahmed El Manakhly, a member of the canal’s board who is responsible for shipping movement.
Another canal source said 26 ships, including one French warship, had entered in the morning northbound convoy but also said the convoy did not include Iranian warships.
Manakhly said warships of any country needed approval to pass from Egypt’s defence and foreign ministries.
Defence Minister Ehud Barak said Israel was tracking them and had alerted “friendly nations in the region” accordingly.
Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper described the two Iranian ships as an MK-5 frigate and a supply vessel, which would not present a significant danger to the Jewish state.
Syria is one of Israel’s neighbouring adversaries. It has an alliance with Iran which has deepened along with Tehran’s isolation from the West over its disputed nuclear programme, which the Jewish state sees as an existential threat.
Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported on Jan. 26 that Iranian navy cadets were going on a year-long training mission into the Red Sea and through Suez to the Mediterranean.
The Suez Canal is a vital commercial and strategic waterway between Europe and the Middle East and Asia. It is also a major source of revenues for the Egyptian government. (Reporting by Yusri Mohamed, Writing by Edmund Blair)