With return of islands, minister identifies unprecedented Saudi commitment to Israel

Steinitz sees Saudi declaration in a "positive light."

April 16, 2016 13:31
1 minute read.
THE EGYPTIAN PARLIAMENT still needs to approve the handover of the Tiran and Sanafir Islands.

THE EGYPTIAN PARLIAMENT still needs to approve the handover of the Tiran and Sanafir Islands.. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)


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National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz on Saturday highlighted the positive diplomatic significance for Israel following the transfer last of two islands in the Red Sea from Egypt to Saudi Arabia.  

The islands of Tiran and Sanafir, located at the southern entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba, will be formally demarcated as being in Saudi waters under a treaty announced last week by Cairo, which has had de facto control over them since 1950.

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In 1967, Egypt blocked the strait of Tiran, a move that prompted Israel to launch the Six Day War. In its later peace deal with Israel, Cairo promised to respect freedom of shipping in Aqaba and Eilat, a commitment that Saudi Arabia says it will uphold when it takes over the islands.

Steinitz, at a cultural event in Holon, said he saw in a positive light the Saudi declaration regarding Israel's continued freedom of movement in the shipping lane.

"In a way, this is the first time that there has been an official and international Saudi commitment towards Israel, from which can be deduced a kind of indirect Saudi legitimization of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty," Steinitz said. 

Riyadh, in its declaration following the transfer, maintained a frosty posture to Israel.

"There will be no direct relationship between the kingdom and Israel due to the return of these islands," Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Egypt's CBC television on Sunday.


But in an apparent allusion to Egyptian-Israeli relations, he added: "There is an agreement and commitments that Egypt accepted related to these islands, and the kingdom is committed to these."  

Eilat is Israel's only port in the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea.

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