Tiran Island - Hussein Tallal/ File photo
CAIRO – 15 June 2017: In light of the current debate about the ownership of Tiran and Sanafir Islands, which was settled on Wednesday by the Egyptian Parliament, several documents are cited as proof that the Islands belong to Saudi Arabia.
The most recent of which brought forward is a 1982 article in the New York Times, in which the islands were mentioned as part of Egypt-Israel talks on withdrawal from Egyptian territory.
Israel's then Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, reportedly asked for "a permanent outpost of the international force in Sinai to be established on the island of Tiran to patrol Tiran and Sanafir."
The article went on to explain the history of Tiran and Sanafir Islands, which "were transferred by Saudi Arabia to Egyptian control in 1950, because the Saudis feared an Israeli attempt to seize them."
It further stated that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Fahd had asked Egypt to return the islands, once they were freed from Israeli occupation.
"Israel fears that Egypt, attempting to repair relations with the Saudis, might make such a transfer, and has told the Egyptian Government firmly that this would constitute a violation of the peace treaty," the article stated.
Wednesday, Parliament approved a maritime border demarcation agreement that would transfer the sovereignty of the Red Sea Islands to Saudi Arabia after a general-voting session.
Egypt had relinquished control of the islands, located at the entrance of the Gulf of Aqaba, in April 2016 when Saudi King Salman bin Abdelaziz was visiting Cairo and reached an agreement with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.
The Supreme Administrative Court confirmed Egypt’s sovereignty over the islands in January, stating that “the Egyptian government has not provided adequate evidence supporting Saudi Arabia’s claim to the land." However, Egypt’s Court of Urgent Matters annulled the verdict in April 2017, and asserted the deal per which Egypt would hand over sovereignty of the two islands to Saudi Arabia.
The deal was then referred to the Egyptian Parliament for approval, following which a series of documents and maps came into light tracing the history of the two islands.
A three-minute video showing antique regional maps of Egypt and the Arab region went viral across social media in early June, documenting the history of Tiran and Sanafir Islands, through old maps that show they originally fell under Saudi Arabian sovereignty.
The oldest map, inked in 1800, shows that Sinai falls completely under the jurisdiction of the Arab peninsula, except for the northern part running across to Gaza and the southern border with Sudan running to Halayeb and Shalatin. The Western Desert at the time comprised only one-third of the area.
The second map, dated 1900, displays Egypt’s borders shaded in red, and the borders of the Ottoman Empire in yellow. The two islands of Tiran and Sanafir appear in yellow.
Meanwhile, other documents claiming Egyptian sovereignty over the islands had also been circulated, including United Nations documents and old maps.
Screenshot of NYTimes article
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