CAIRO — Two Iranian naval vessels have submitted a request to transit the Suez Canal, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said yesterday. Israel has expressed concerns over the plans, labeling them a provocation.
Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said Egyptian authorities have received the request to grant the vessels passage, while a Suez Canal official said the Defense Ministry would process the application.
In Tehran, Iran’s official English-language Press TV cited an Iranian naval official saying the two warships are to pass through the canal. The official said Tehran was in contact with Egypt about the ships.
Ahmed al-Manakhly, a senior Suez Canal official, said international agreements regulate the traffic through the canal. He said that only in the case of war with Egypt may vessels be denied transit through the waterway.
Manakhly said the final decision on whether to grant the vessels’ passage lies with the Defense Ministry.
He said he would not allow any warships to transit the canal without approval from the Defense Ministry.
The Suez Canal official identified the two vessels as the Alvand, a frigate, and the Kharq, a supply ship, and said they were en route to Syria. He said they were now in an area near Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea port of Jiddah.
Spokesmen for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and the Foreign Ministry refused to comment.
Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, said Wednesday that Iran was about to send two naval vessels through the Suez Canal for the first time in years, calling it a provocation.
Israel considers Iran an existential threat because of its disputed nuclear program, ballistic missile development, support for militants in the region, and its threats to destroy Israel.