Tiran Island (foreground) and the Sanafir Island (background) in the Straits of Tiran between Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and Saudi Arabia.
(Photo credit: STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)
The US is reportedly brokering talks between Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Israel over the transfer of two islands located in the Red Sea, according to a report from Israel’s Walla News on 23 May.
The islands, which once belonged to Saudi Arabia, were handed over to Egyptian control in 1950 by Riyadh.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia have been negotiating over the islands of Tiran and Sanafir since 2018, when the Egyptian Supreme Court approved a bilateral deal to transfer the islands to Saudi Arabia.
The islands also share a waterway which is connected to Israel’s southernmost maritime borders, which requires Israeli involvement in the negotiations.
The report says that Saudi Arabia wants to retire the multinational force that currently maintains freedom of navigation in the Straits of Tiran, and that Israel is seeking guarantees for its security and freedom of navigation in the absence of the multinational force.
In a press conference on 24 May at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan stated that normalization with Israel “will not happen” until the Palestinian issue is fully solved.
The negotiations are reportedly being led by White House Middle East Coordinator Brett McGurk, as the US tries to repair its strained ties with Saudi Arabia.
US President Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) are slated to meet for the first time in June.
This potential meeting would come after months of tensions between Washington and Riyadh, as a result of Saudi Arabia’s neutrality in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Relations between the US and Gulf states took a turn for the worse following Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine, with both Saudi Arabia and the UAE refusing the US diktat to increase oil production levels.