The Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom has said that “Egypt needs Israel’s approval to transfer sovereignty of the Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia, especially since the two islands are part of the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel.
It added that “Israel has sent its consent to Egypt with regard to the transfer of sovereignty over the two islands, at the time when the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was visiting Egypt.”
The newspaper explained that “In April 2016, an agreement was reached between Egypt and Saudi Arabia on the two islands and el-Sisi subsequently ratified it. After the Egyptian judiciary canceled the agreement, a judicial decision that approved the handover of the two islands was issued recently, while the Israeli approval has seemingly come from its embassy in Cairo.”
It noted that “Israel’s ratification is necessary because Sanafir and Tiran are part of the demilitarized zone set forth in the Camp David Accords and Sanafir, located in the Strait of Tiran, belongs to the Kingdom, but it was handed over to Egypt in the wake of the 1948 war.”
The newspaper suggested that “The island of Tiran represents a strategic point because it controls the entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba and is Israel’s and Jordan’s route to the Red Sea. This island was not populated until the mid-20th century, when it was considered part of Saudi Arabia. Following the Israel’s military occupation of Eilat and its development, Egypt established a base in the island of Tiran with the assent of Riyadh and the question of sovereignty over the island was raised more than once for discussion at the UN Security Council.”
Last August, Egypt revealed three correspondences between its government and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on arrangements between Cairo and Riyadh to transfer sovereignty over Tiran and Sanafir islands from Egypt to Saudi Arabia.
The three letters, which were published in the Official Gazette and are related to el-Sisi’s decision to approve the maritime boundary demarcation agreement signed between Egypt and Saudi Arabia in April 2016. This included the transfer of sovereignty over Tiran and Sanafir islands, in the Red Sea, to Saudi Arabia.
The three correspondences are dated May 8, December 18, and December 19, 2016, and included Saudi Arabia’s commitment to the arrangements set out in the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty and its annexes as for the Strait of Tiran, the Tiran and Sanafir islands, as well the need for Israeli approval.
In accordance with the peace treaty and its annexes, the two islands are supervised by a multinational force.
According to the peace treaty the two islands are within civilian area C. This means that Egypt is not entitled to exercise military presence there though it does exercise sovereignty . In April 2016, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir announced that the Kingdom would not coordinate with Israel on the two islands after the transfer of sovereignty over them to it.
He stressed at the time his country’s commitment to all international agreements concluded by Egypt on the two islands, including the Camp David peace agreement between Cairo and Tel Aviv.