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US said brokering talks to transfer islands from Egypt to Saudi with Israeli backing

The Biden administration is reportedly brokering talks aimed at finalizing the transfer of two Red Sea islands from Egypt to Saudi Arabia in an agreement Israel hopes will include steps by Riyadh toward normalizing ties with the Jewish state.

In 2017, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi ratified a treaty to hand over Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia. The deal withstood protests and legal challenges in Egypt but was never finalized.

The two Red Sea islands figure prominently in the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement signed in 1979, which promises safe passage to Israeli civilian and military ships through the narrow waterways of the Straits of Tiran.

As part of the 1979 peace deal, Egypt agreed to demilitarize multinational observers led by the United States. and allow the presence of a force of multinational observers led by the US to patrol the islands. Their transfer to Saudi Arabia, therefore, requires a degree of Israeli buy-in in order to move forward.

The island transfer, first announced in April 2016, had fueled rare protests in Egypt with opponents of Sissi accusing him of having traded the islands for Saudi largesse. The government said the islands were Saudi to begin with but were leased to Egypt in the 1950s.

Read More: Times of Israel