The U.S. administration is secretly negotiating a deal between Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Egypt that might lead to a normalization of relations between the Saudi kingdom and the Jewish State, the Axios news outlet reported on Monday.
Citing five U.S. and Israeli sources, the report said the U.S. took the leading role in solving the issue of transferring two strategic islands in the Red Sea, Tiran and Sanafir, from Egypt to Saudi Arabia.
In 1950, Saudi Arabia handed over the control of the islands to Egypt, however, they became demilitarized as part of the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, the daily reported. Today, the two islands in the Red Sea control the Straits of Tiran – a strategic sea passage to the ports of Aqaba in Jordan and Eilat in Israel.
The negotiations among the different parties continues, and no agreement has yet been signed. One of the key issues is the question of a multinational force of observers, the sources told Axios.
Saudia Arabia agreed to keep the islands demilitarized and maintain full freedom of navigation for all ships, however, it wanted to end the presence of multinational observers. Additionally, Israeli officials agreed on ending the observers' presence but required similar security arrangements as seen today.
The White House would like to reach an agreement before U.S. President Joe Biden's visit the Middle East, including Israel, at the end of June.
If the various parties finalize the deal, it could be the foundation of warmer relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia which currently do not have any official diplomatic ties, although the kingdom supported the U.S.-mediated Abraham Accords in 2020.
However, the Gulf state declared back then that it would not normalize its ties with Israel until the peace process with the Palestinians is resumed.
Republished with permission from i24NEWS