CAIRO, (Reuters) – Two Iranian naval ships will sail through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean on Monday, a Suez Canal official said, in what will be the first passage of Iranian naval ships through the canal since 1979.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has described Iran’s plan to send the ships through the canal en route to Syria as a “provocation.”
The official said the vessels would arrive at the southern mouth of the canal in the Red Sea’s Gulf of Suez on Sunday. They would enter the canal in the northern convoy on Monday morning and complete the journey to the Mediterranean by evening.
An Egyptian army source said on Friday that the military, which has been running Egypt since President Hosni Mubarak was toppled from power on February 11, had approved Iran’s request to send the ships through the canal.
The decision had posed an early diplomatic headache for Egypt’s interim government. Cairo is an ally of the United States and has a peace treaty with Israel but its relations with Iran have been strained since the 1979 revolution.
Egypt’s Western allies are watching for hints of any shift in policy toward its Middle East neighbors.