Egypt cedes strategic islands to Saudi Arabia

Border change could block strategic passage between Israel and Aqaba.

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Aqaba (file)
Aqaba (file)
Issam Rimawi/Flash90

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi ceded two islands off the Sinai coast to Saudi Arabia Saturday - both of which are strategically-important for Israel.

The Sanafir and Tiran islands, off the coast of Eilat, provide Israel's only access to the port of Aqaba; Egyptian blockage of the passage in 1967 provided one of Israel's casus belli in launching the Six-Day War. 

Israel liberated the islands in 1967, and retained ownership until the Camp David Accords in 1982 - the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty - with the stipulation that the US-led Multinational Force Observers (MFO) retain a watchpost over the islands to ensure safe Israeli passage. 

As such, the transfer of the islands from Egypt to Saudi Arabia - which has no formal diplomatic relationship with Israel - raises questions over the future of Israel-Egypt relations.

The agreement, however - one of many controversial land-related deals forged between Cairo and Riyadh over the weekend -  has yet to be ratified by the Egyptian parliament.