TEHRAN (AFP) – Two Iranian warships, which entered the Mediterranean last month sparking an outcry from Israel, have passed through the Suez Canal back into the Red Sea, naval commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayari said on Saturday.
“The flotilla … has completed its mission successfully in the Mediterranean Sea and has returned to the Red Sea transiting through the Suez Canal,” the official news agency IRNA quoted Sayari as saying.
It was the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution that Iranian warships had entered the Mediterranean and Iran’s archfoe Israel described the move as a “political provocation.”
The frigate Alvand and supply ship Kharg passed through the Suez Canal on February 22 and docked two days later at the Syrian port o fLatakia.
Sayari did not say when the warships began their return journey, but said it took them “10-12 hours to transit” the canal. He said the flotilla conveyed a message of “peace and friendship to friendly countries.”
Israel, which considers Iran its biggest threat after repeated predictions by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of its demise, put its navy on alert during the flotilla’s mission.
Analysts say the deployment was an attempt by Iran to project its clout in the region at a time when anti-government protests sweeping the Arab world from Casablanca to Cairo are shifting the regional balance of power.
The Suez Canal Authority said last month that ships of any nationality can pass through “as long as the country is not in a state of war with Egypt.”