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Egypt: No Iranian warships have passed through Suez

By the CNN Wire Staff
The Suez Canal links the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, a crucial bridge between Europe and Asia.
The Suez Canal links the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, a crucial bridge between Europe and Asia.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman says two Iranian warships are expected to pass through the Suez Canal
  • No request has been made by Iran for waships to cross the canal
  • The Israeli Defense Ministry says it is monitoring the movement of Iranian ships

(CNN) -- Iran has not requested to move any of its warships through the Suez Canal, an Egyptian official said Thursday.

"No Iranian warships sailed through the canal in the last two days and nothing is planned for the coming days either," said Ahmed El-Manakhly, the transit director of the Suez Canal Authority.

"In order for any warship to cross the canal, their government needs to send a request to the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through their embassy in Cairo for approval and once approved, the warships can cross the canal. but for now, no official request has been submitted," he said.

The development came a day after Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said two Iranian warships were expected to pass through the Suez Canal Wednesday night on their way to Syria.

"This is a provocation that proves that the self-confidence and insolence of the Iranians is growing from day to day," he said. "This happens after the Iranian president's visit to south Lebanon and his aggressive declarations there towards Israel."

The Israeli Defense Ministry said Israel was monitoring the movement of the Iranian ships and alerted its allies.

On the report, oil prices spiked for a time on Wednesday.

The Suez Canal serves as a key passageway for international trade, allowing ships to navigate between Europe and Asia without having to go all the way around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.

Millions of barrels of oil move through the Suez every day on the way to both Europe and North America.

Iranian Navy officials have said the flotilla has embarked on a yearlong training mission that takes it to the Gulf of Aden to the Red Sea and through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean Sea, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency.

During the mission, Iranian Navy cadets are due to be trained and prepared for defending the country's cargo ships and oil tankers.

Iranian Navy Cmdr. Rear Adm. Habibollah Sayyari said cadets would be trained to protect ships and tankers now under threat of attack from Somali pirates, Fars said. Part of the mission was also to gather intelligence.

Sayyari said the ships were in the region in "pursuit of a powerful (military) presence in the high seas and to consolidate our friendly ties and declare our message of peace and friendship to the regional countries."

Liberman said Wednesday that Israel's allies should pay attention after the news of the Iranians plan to enter the Suez..

"We expect the international community to act speedily with determination against the Iranian provocations, designed to deteriorate the situation in the area, and put the Iranians in their place," he said.

Liberman's comments were not so much a threat but a wake-up call about a "worrying development," said a senior government official who was not identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The official said Liberman was "painting it as a challenge to the West."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamim Netanyahu's office offered no immediate comment.

CNN's Kevin Flower, Saad Abedine and journalist Ken Sweet contributed to this report