21 Feb 2012

Iranian navy ships reach Syria

11:58 am on 21 February 2012

Two Iranian navy ships have docked at port in Syria, apparently to train local personnel.

Iranian state television said a supply vessel and a destroyer were in Tartus, a port city north west of Damascus, and would be involved in training the Syrian navy.

Iran's Defence Minister, Ahmad Vahidi, said the transit of the two ships through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean was a symbol of the nation's marine capability.

The deployment comes amid heightened tensions between Iran and Israel over Tehran's nuclear programme.

Speculation has been rising that Israel might launch air strikes against Iranian atomic facilities.

The Israeli foreign ministry has said it will closely follow the movement of the two Iranian ships to confirm that they do not approach the Israeli coast.

The first time Iran sent warships into the Mediterranean, in February 2011, it provoked strong reactions from Israel and the United States, with Israel putting its navy on alert.

During that deployment, two Iranian vessels sailed past the coast of Israel and docked at the port of Latakia in allied Syria before returning to Iranian waters via the Red Sea.