Egypt Gives Red Sea Islands to Saudi Arabia

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Egypt’s parliament approved the transfer of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia under a border agreement. In return, Saudi Arabia will provide billions of dollars in loans and investments to help Egypt’s ailing economy.

The two islands are located on strategic waters and are unoccupied save for the Egyptian military personnel and multinational peacekeepers stationed there.

The islands were Saudi-owned and that they asked the Egyptians in 1950 to protect it. Lying four kilometers (2.5 miles) apart, the islands are entryways to the port of Aqaba in Jordan and Eilat in Israel.

Two small, uninhabited islands, Tiran and Sanafir, stand guard between Egypt and Saudi Arabia at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba. It is Israel’s only gateway to its southern port of Eilat and its vital trade connections to south-east Asia.

Israel also captured the island twice, once in 1956 and also during the six-day war in 1967, and returned them to Egypt both times.

But while the transfer has provoked widespread protests in Egypt, with opponents claiming it amounts to “selling off” Egypt’s sovereign territory, Israel has quietly given the deal its blessing.

Saudi Arabia had helped Sisi since he toppled President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013, and legal wrangling over the Red Sea deal was a source of tensions between the two countries.

The benefits for Egypt include increasingly normalised relations with Saudi Arabia and the chance to bring into the daylight an emerging Israeli-Arab military and diplomatic front against a common enemy: Iran.

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