Red Sea islands deal between Egypt, Saudi Arabia may require Israeli approval

The Straits of Tiran and Tiran island. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

( A recent deal between Egypt and Saudi Arabia over the transfer of sovereignty of two islands in the Red Sea may require changes to the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty, reports indicate.

According to a report in Egypt’s Al-Ahram newspaper, the islands agreement may require changes to the treaty including ones dealing with maritime borders, which would require Israeli Knesset approval. Additionally, the report said Egyptian officials had told their Israeli counterparts that the signed agreement would include a commitment by Saudi Arabia to respect Egypt’s peace obligations with Israel. The report said Israel has so far not expressed any opposition to the islands coming under Saudi control.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman recently made a five-day visit to Egypt, where it was announced that Egypt would hand over sovereignty of the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia. But some Egyptians are protesting the deal.

The uninhabited islands that sit on the southern entry to the Gulf of Aqaba were originally given to Egypt in 1950 by Saudi Arabia, in order to protect them from Israel. Later, the islands played an important role in setting off the 1967 Six-Day War when Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli ships, thereby preventing Israeli access to the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. As a result, United Nations peacekeepers maintain a presence on Tiran as part of the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty.

Posted on April 11, 2016 .