Biden secures deal on Red Sea islands and Israeli use of Saudi airspace

The agreement brings Israel and Saudi Arabia closer to normalising relations

Andrew Feinberg
Thursday 14 July 2022 20:27 BST
Biden defends visit to Saudi Arabia
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President Joe Biden has reportedly helped cement an agreement between Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt that would resolve a long-standing dispute over a pair of islands in the Red Sea and allow Israeli aircraft to transit through Saudi airspace for the first time in history.

According to Axios, the agreement would allow the Saudis to take full control of Tiran and Sanafir islands, which have been a demilitarised zone since Egypt and Israel signed the 1979 peace treaty negotiated with the help of then-president Jimmy Carter.

A multinational observer force that has been on the islands pursuant to the treaty will be moved to the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula and replaced by cameras to monitor both the islands and the Strait of Tiran.

Saudi Arabia will also commit to the US that it will allow Israeli ships freedom of navigation in the strait, and the US will give Israel security guarantees based on those commitments.

Biden administration officials have reportedly spent months negotiating the agreement, which is particularly complicated because Israel and Saudi Arabia do not have diplomatic relations with each other.

The deal, which is set to be announced during Mr Biden’s time in Jeddah this weekend, will also pave the way for a separate deal between Israel and the Saudis that will give Israeli airlines such as El Al the ability to use Saudi airspace for eastbound flights, and allow charter air service between Israel and Saudi Arabia for Muslim pilgrims to Mecca and Medina.

Mr Biden is set to take the first-ever direct flight from Israel to Jeddah when he travels there aboard Air Force One on Friday.

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