CAIRO, Apr 11 (Aswat Masriya) – The Saudi Foreign Minister asserted in a televised interview on Sunday that the disputed Red Sea islands Tiran and Sanafir belong to Saudi Arabia, and affirmed there was no connection between Saudi Arabia and Israel regarding the matter.
Egypt's cabinet announced Saturday that a maritime border agreement has been signed with Saudi Arabia stipulating that the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir fall within Saudi Arabia's territorial waters.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said in an interview with satellite channel CBC that Israel had occupied the two islands from Egypt and then Egypt returned them to Saudi once again.
"The islands have always been Saudi territory and no one in Egypt is doubting this," al-Jubeir added.
Israel occupied the islands in 1967 during the Six Day war with Egypt.
After signing the Camp David Accords that ended the state of war between the two countries, Israel handed the two islands back to Egypt.
In its statement, the Egyptian cabinet mentioned that Egypt and Saudi have been in negotiations for more than six years in order to reach a demarcation agreement regarding maritime borders between both states.
Saudi Arabia had "leased" the islands to Egypt in 1950 to provide for their protection and Egypt has been doing so ever since, the cabinet added.
The maritime border agreement came under heavy scrutiny from many Egyptians who argue the two islands belong to Egypt and should not be given up to Saudi Arabia.
Egyptian lawyer Khaled Ali filed a lawsuit with the administrative judiciary on Sunday challenging the maritime border demarcation agreement, stating that the case was "not personal" and that the issue needs major research and legal effort on the historical, geographical, constitutional and international levels.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is set to meet with parliament members as well as representatives of the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) and the press to shed light on developments regarding the latest maritime border demarcation agreement, according to sources from the presidency.
The agreement, which is yet to be ratified by the Egyptian parliament, came during King Salman's visit to Egypt which began Thursday amid a series of investment deals in the hope of boosting the Egyptian economy.
Saudi Arabia is to provide Egypt with 700,000 tonnes of petroleum products a month under a $23 billion (16 billion pounds) deal over five years between Saudi Aramco and the Egyptian General Petroleum Corp, an EGPC official said on Monday according to Reuters.
The Tiran Island is located in the Gulf of al-Aqaba, about 5 or 6 km from the Sinai Peninsula, and it has a total area of about 80 square km. Sanafir Island lies to the east of Tiran with a total area of 33 square km.
Located at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba, the two islands are strategically significant as they both control maritime activity in the gulf.
Egypt has enjoyed the support of Saudi Arabia, as well as of Gulf neighbours Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, since the military ouster of then-President Mohammed Mursi in July 2013 following mass protests against his rule.
In the past two days, Sisi and the Saudi King signed agreements worth $25 billion with the aim of increasing cooperation between the two countries.