Israeli officials in Jerusalem called Syria's demand to receive at least part of the cargo of an intercepted ship suspected of transporting explosives from Iran to Palestinian terrorists in Gaza "insolent."
European diplomats said the EU and Syria are engaged in a tug-of-war over the ship. Cyprus is caught in the middle, they said, because the vessel docked there after the US military boarded it.
According to the Israeli officials, the affair serves as unequivocal proof that both Syria and Iran were breaching UN Security Council Resolution 1747 from March 2007, which states that "Iran shall not supply, sell or transfer directly or indirectly from its territory or by its nationals or using its flag vessels or aircraft any arms or related materiel, and that all states shall prohibit the procurement of such items from Iran by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, and whether or not originating in the territory of Iran."
Two diplomats recently told The Associated Press that Syria, described by the US as the port of destination for the vessel, is pressuring Cyprus over what it should do with the ship's cargo.
Syrian Justice Minister Mohammed al-Ghufari visited Cyprus late last month on a little-publicized visit weeks after the US Navy boarded the Cypriot-flagged Monchegorsk off the island nation and found what Washington suspects were weapons from Iran meant for Hamas terrorists in Gaza.
The US military said it could not legally detain the ship, which it said was headed for Syria.
The vessel continued on to Port Said, Egypt, and then on Jan. 29 docked in Cyprus, where its cargo — described by Cypriot officials as material that could be used to manufacture munitions — was offloaded.
Among the weapons found in the 98 containers that were offloaded were hundreds of 125-milimeter shells for Syria's T-72 tanks.
The Cypriot government says the ship breached the UN ban on Iranian arms exports.
Israel and the United States accuse Iran and Syria of supplying Hamas with weapons, something both Mideast nations deny. Israel launched a 22-day offensive on Hamas-controlled Gaza in late December to halt terrorists' rocket fire on Israelis and the smuggling of arms that turned Hamas into a threat to much of southern Israel.