2 islands with history of different occupants

Saudi Arabia and Egypt have signed agreements to specify their maritime borders, allowing both countries to benefit from maritime zones that were previously untapped.

The agreement signed on Saturday includes the Tiran and Sanafir islands as part of Saudi territory, a statement by Egypt's Cabinet said, according to Reuters.

But legal experts in Egypt say giving away authority over Egyptian territory is unconstitutional, the Middle East Eye news portal reported. The move was also condemned by the country's largest - but banned - opposition movement, the Muslim Brotherhood.

The two islands have previously been administered by Egypt since 1949, when Saudi Arabia allowed Egypt to occupy the two islands "for defence purposes" following the establishment of the Israeli state, independent news portal Egyptian Streets reported.

Egypt then blocked passage through the Strait of Tiran, Israel's only maritime passage from the Gulf of Aqaba to the Red Sea.

The islands were captured by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967 and remained under Israeli control until 1982, when they were handed back to Egypt under the Camp David peace accords.

The implication of the EgyptSaudi pact for Israeli-Egyptian relations is unclear, says Israeli news portal Ynetnews.

Lee Seok Hwai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 11, 2016, with the headline '2 islands with history of different occupants'. Print Edition | Subscribe