Israel approves transfer of strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia
Under the 1979 Egypt–Israel peace treaty, Egypt took control of Tiran and Sanafir as the sides agreed to demilitarize the islands
By News Desk - July 15 2022

(Photo credit: Media Alalam)

According to a report released on 15 July, Israel has approved the provisions of the agreement on the transfer of the strategic islands of Sanafir and Tiran in the Red Sea, clearing the way for the normalization of ties between Tel Aviv and Riyadh.

Under the 1979 Egypt–Israel peace treaty, Egypt took control of Tiran and Sanafir after both sides agreed to demilitarize the islands and allow the presence of a multinational observer force.

Over the past months, Washington has quietly negotiated the deal between the two nations, in accordance to a report by Axios, which noted that US President Joe Biden is expected to ratify the deal during his current visit.

Israel also sought guarantees for freedom of navigation, based on Riyadh’s commitments. The agreement would allow Israeli airlines to use Saudi Arabia’s airspace for eastbound flights.

The arrangement would also allow Muslim pilgrims to fly directly from Israel to Mecca.

During a press conference on 14 July, President Biden said that he was “optimistic” about potential steps toward the normalization of ties between the two.

Biden hailed the Saudi airspace decision, with his national security advisor saying “President Biden welcomes and commends the historic decision by the leadership of Saudi Arabia to open Saudi airspace to all civilian carriers without discrimination, a decision that includes flights to and from Israel.”

The transfer of the islands of Tiran and Sanafir were made after Israeli officials said that Tel Aviv have no objections to the move.

The islands, which were used to control access to the Israeli port of Eilat, are currently in Egypt’s possession, but Cairo agreed years ago to hand them over to Riyadh in exchange for financial support.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt previously signed 14 agreements, all together valued at $7.7 billion, during a visit to Cairo on 21 June by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The US reportedly brokered talks between Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Israel over the transfer of two islands, according to a report from Israel’s Walla News on 23 May.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia have been negotiating over the islands since 2018, when the Egyptian Supreme Court approved a bilateral deal to transfer the islands to Saudi Arabia.

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