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The Israëli-Saudi-Egyptian agreement on the islands of Tiran and Sanafir


Since the 11th April 2016, date at which the islands of Tiran and Sanafir were given by Egypt to Saudi Arabia, the two governments have been multiplying their declarations affirming that they had always been Saudi, in an attempt to soothe the anger of Egyptian nationalists [1].

The two governments and their supporters have published several internal documents aimed at proving their claims. However, in international law, only the London Convention of 1840 applies. After the «Eastern Question» which opposed Mehemet Ali to the Sultan, it was agreed that he would give up Syria, but would keep Egypt and Sudan, including the islands of Tiran and Sanafir. No other international treaty was signed which modified the sovereignty of the islands until the announcement made by President Al-Sissi.

From his side, the Israëli Minister of Defence, Moshe Yaalon, confirmed that Cairo had consulted Tel-Aviv before the transfer. Indeed, during the Camp David Accords, Egypt had agreed to guarantee the free passage of the Israëli fleet in the Tiran Straits, and in exchange, in 1982, Israël returned the islands that it was occupying. But we should note that Israël gave the islands back to Egypt, and not to Saudi Arabia, from whom it had stolen them. Since the Saudi party had agreed to respect this part of the Camp David Accords, Israël made no objection to the transfer.

Pete Kimberley

[1] “Where is Egypt headed?”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Pete Kimberley, Voltaire Network, April 25th, 2016.

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