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Egypt to transfer two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia

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Israel will agree to new security arrangements that will allow Egypt to transfer control of two strategic islands in the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia, the Jerusalem Post reported on Thursday.

According to the Post, Israel will allow a multinational force of observers stationed on the Tiran and Sanafir islands - which ensured freedom of navigation at the Strait of Tiran - to be relocated to Egypt.

In return, Saudi Arabia will allow Israeli airlines to fly over its airspace. Currently, only Israeli flights to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain can fly over the kingdom, as well as Air India flights to and from Israel.

No public meeting between Israel and Saudi officials is planned to announce the agreement, but President Biden will present it as his administration's achievement during his trip to the region soon, which is expected to include Jerusalem and Riyadh, the Post said.

The Tiran and Sanafir islands - strategically located at the sea passage to the ports of Aqaba in Jordan and Eilat in Israel - were occupied by Israel in 1967 during the Six Day War, before being handed back to Egyptian control in 1982, four years after the two sides signed the Camp David peace accords.

Saudi Arabia has long claimed ownership of the islands and said Egypt controlled them since 1950 for protection at the request of Riyadh.

Saudi officials have recently spoken about potentially normalizing ties with Israel, but insist the country will not move forward until progress has been made on addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"I think we have always seen normalization as the end result, but the end result of a path," Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud said last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

"We always envisioned that there will be full normalization with Israel, and I've said before that a full normalization between us and Israel, between the region and Israel, will bring immense benefits - we won't be able to reap those benefits unless we address the issue of Palestine."

Similarly, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told the Jerusalem Post Magazine, in an interview to be published on Friday, that normalization with Saudi Arabia will "happen with baby steps."

On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken highlighted Riyadh's potential role in expanding normalization with more Arab and Muslim countries.

"Saudi Arabia is a critical partner to us in dealing with extremism in the region, in dealing with the challenges posed by Iran, and also I hope in continuing the process of building relationships between Israel and its neighbors both near and further away through the continuation, the expansion of the Abraham Accords," Blinken said at a virtual event celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of Foreign Affairs magazine.

Iraq criminalizes all forms of normalization with Israel

The potential transfer of the two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia came weeks after Iraq's parliament unanimously approved a legislation that criminalizes any form of "normalization" with Israel.

According to the text of the law, which was obtained by Middle East Eye, all Iraqis, whether inside or outside the country, are banned from establishing relations with Israel, visiting the country, or promoting normalization.

The legislation, approved on May 26, applies to all state officials, including those in the semi-autonomous northern Kurdistan region, as well as government institutions, private sector companies, the media, foreign companies and their employees.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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