JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israel handed over to Egypt ancient artifacts it said had been illegally imported after they were smuggled out of their homeland through a third country.
A foreign ministry statement said two sarcophagus lids - one dated to between the 16th and 14th centuries BC and the other between the 10th and 8th - were delivered to Egypt's ambassador to Israel Hazem Khairat on Sunday (May 22).
The English-language statement said the objects were seized by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and stored until their return Sunday in climate-controlled conditions.
It gave no further details but said bureaucratic procedures for their repatriation were eased by "the strengthening dialogue between the ministry of foreign affairs and the Embassy of Egypt in Israel".
The Jerusalem Post newspaper quoted an IAA official as saying the wooden coffin lids had travelled from Egypt to Dubai and passed through London before arriving in Israel in 2012.
Although Egypt became the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, ties have been formally cold over Israel's policies towards the Palestinians.
Mr Khairat took up his post in February, after more than three years when Cairo had no ambassador in Israel.
Egypt, under then president Mohamed Morsi, recalled its previous ambassador in November 2012 after Israeli air strikes in Gaza killed a top Hamas militant and at least six other Palestinians.