Egypt relinquishes disputed Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia

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Egypt has agreed to hand over ownership of two disputed Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.

Comp43iThe two countries agreed to maritime borders that give the islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Riyadh, an Egyptian cabinet statement said on April 9.

“This enables both countries to benefit from the exclusive economic zone for each, with whatever resources and treasures they contain,” the statement said.

The agreement was announced during Saudi King Salman’s five-day state visit to Cairo.

The uninhabited islands sit at the entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba. Ownership of them has long been disputed, with both Cairo and Riyadh claiming them, although they were officially under Egyptian control.

Tiran and Sanafir, which once-formed the border between the Ottoman Empire and British-controlled Egypt, are considered of strategic importance because they lie on the sea route to the Jordanian port of Aqaba and the Israeli port of Eilat.

The islands were occupied by Israel in 1967 during the Six Day War, before being handed back to Egyptian control in 1982 when the two sides signed the Camp David peace accords.

In 2010, Egypt and Saudi Arabia began formally discussing the drawing of their maritime borders, including the ownership of the two islands.