Issue Brief on “Regional Realignment in the Red Sea”

Two small, deserted islands, Tiran and Sanafir, lie between Egypt and Saudi Arabia at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba. Recently, Egypt’s parliament has voted to sanction a 2016 agreement under which Cairo would transfer the two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia. The agreement to hand over the islands was announced during the April 2016 visit to Cairo by the Saudi king[1], leading to the largest anti-government protests since President Sisi took office in 2014.

The island of Tiran controls a narrow shipping lane that leads to and from the ports of Eilat and Aqaba in Israel and Jordan correspondingly.[2] Egypt’s decision to close the lane was one of the main reasons behind the occurrence of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, in which Egypt had to forfeit the entire Sinai Peninsula.

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