27 February 2011
Tehran and Damascus have agreed to cooperate on naval training, the Iranian news agency IRNA reported on Saturday, after two Iranian warships docked in a Syrian port. "The two parties will cooperate with each other in training issues and the exchange of personnel," IRNA quoted the agreement, signed by the commanders of both navies, as saying. The two Iranian ships arrived in Syria on Wednesday after passing through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean. It was the first time Iranian navy vessels did so since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and led to protests by Israel’s government, which called it a provocation.
"The message of the ships is to announce the peace and friendship to Islamic countries and the region and attempt to strengthen relations between the countries," an Iranian navy commander was quoted as saying by the semi-official ‘Fars’ news agency.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has said the move was a provocation but not a threat. "If they were bringing rockets or weapons or explosives to Hamas or Hezbollah, we would have probably acted against them," he told CNN on Thursday. Iran’s ambassador in Damascus, Ahmad Mousavi, said Iran was strengthening its geopolitical status but had no desire for war.
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