Two Iranian warships have entered the Suez Canal to make a passage to the Mediterranean Sea, canal officials say. Iranian officials have said the warships are headed to Syria for training, a mission Israel has described as a “provocation”.
“They entered the canal at 0545 (0345 GMT),” Suez Canal officials said.
It is believed to be the first time since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution that Iranian warships have passed through the Suez Canal.
Iran’s request stated the vessels would have no military equipment, nuclear materials or chemicals on board, the Egyptian defence ministry is quoted as saying.
The ships involved are the frigate Alvand and a supply vessel, the Kharg.
Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported in January that Iranian navy cadets were going on a year-long training mission through Suez and into the Mediterranean, according to the Reuters news agency.
A Suez Canal official said Egypt could only have denied transit through the strategic waterway in case of war.
Israeli considers Iran a threat because of its controversial nuclear programme, development of ballistic missiles, support for Lebanese and Palestinian militant groups, and promises to destroy Israel.
Last week, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said: “To my regret, the international community is not showing readiness to deal with the recurring Iranian provocations. The international community must understand that Israel cannot forever ignore these provocations.”