The Sudanese army on Monday welcomed two Iranian vessels less than a week after airstrikes blamed on Israel destroyed a weapons factory in Khartoum. The vessels, the helicopter carrier Kharg and destroyer Admiral Naqdi, are part of Iran’s 22nd naval fleet stationed in the Gulf of Aden where it has been conducting anti-piracy patrols since 2008 when an Iranian cargo ship was hijacked by Somali pirates.
A Sudanese army spokesman described the visit as an “exchange of amicable relations” between the two nations. “The visit of the two ships will support strong political, security and diplomatic relations between the two states”, army spokesman Sawarmi Khsled Saad told SUNA, the country’s official news agency. The vessels which are docked in Port Sudan, the country’s main port located on the Red Sea will give access to Sudanese naval personnel “to see advanced weapons and advanced ships”, Saad added.
According to Press TV, an Iranian state-own broadcaster, the vessels’ visit to Sudan is to “convey Iran’s message of peace to the regional countries and maintain the security of shipping corridors against maritime terrorism.” But the timing of the Iranian visit, just days after huge explosions caused by what Khartoum said were four radar-evading Israeli aircraft strikes on the al-Yarmouk military factory in the capital, has raised questions over the link between Iran and the al-Yarmouk military depot and ammunition plant.
Although Iran has not made any connections between the two, however unconfirmed reports inside Israel say the plant was being used by Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corp (IRGC) to manufacture weapons for Hezbollah and Hamas, reports vehemently denied by Sudan’s foreign ministry. A foreign ministry statement has instead accused Israel of spreading “misleading information” about Iranian support for Sudanese weapons production. “We would like to deny any link between Sudanese military production and any foreign party”, the statement said.
While there has been no official statement from Tel Aviv on the latest incident, Israel has in the past accused Sudan of allowing Iran to use its territory in the trafficking of Iranian weapons to Hamas in Gaza, a view that has been re-echoed by Amos Gilad, a top Israeli defence official who was quoted last week saying Sudan “serves as a route for the transfer, via Egyptian territory, of Iranian weapons to Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists.”
According to Sudanese officials, the visit of the two Iranian warships which are due to leave Port Sudan today to continue their patrols in the Red Sea is not an extra-ordinary event as naval ships from Pakistan, Egypt, India and elsewhere have also previously visited Sudan.
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