Biden Admin Reportedly Mediating 'Breakthrough' Deal Between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Israel

© Sputnik / Natalia Seliverstova / Go to the photo bankOfficial residence of the U.S. President, the White House in Washington D.C.
Official residence of the U.S. President, the White House in Washington D.C. - Sputnik International, 1920, 24.05.2022
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Such a deal may be the biggest Middle Eastern diplomatic breakthrough for the US and Israel since the 2020 Abraham Accords, which saw the UAE and Bahrain – and later Morocco - normalise ties with Tel Aviv.
Washington is allegedly brokering a deal between Egypt and Saudi Arabia over two islands in the Straits of Tiran as a part of greater effort to normalise Saudi-Israeli relations, Axios has reported, citing several anonymous sources in the US and Israel.
The strategically placed Tiran and Sanafir Islands were under Egypt's control since 1950 when Riyadh transferred them to Cairo. However, following the 1967 Six-Day War and the subsequent Israeli-Egyptian peace deal, they were demilitarised and have since been subject to constant foreign oversight from forces including the US.
The White House is now reportedly attempting to break the deadlock over the islands’ future. Talks on transferring control back to Saudi Arabia started in 2018, with both sides initially managing to negotiate most of the issues, including a waiver from Tel Aviv. Negotiations were never finalised, however, with multinational observation remaining a thorny issue.
Israeli model May Tager, left, holds Israel's blue-and-white flag bearing the Star of David while next to her Anastasia Bandarenka, a Dubai-based model originally from Russia, waves the Emirati flag, during a photo shoot in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 8 September 2020 - Sputnik International, 1920, 26.02.2021
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The renewed US-brokered talks are allegedly being conducted quietly, with neither side ready to publically confirm the dialogue due to its sensitive nature, Axios said. According to the media outlet, the White House wants to complete the talks in order to move forward with the normalisation of Saudi-Israeli ties ahead of President Joe Biden's upcoming trip to the Middle East.
The US president reportedly plans to visit Saudi Arabia during his next regional tour. The two nations have suffered from strained relations of late, in no small part due to Biden’s 2020 electoral promise to make Saudi Arabia a "pariah" state. Likewise, Saudi authorities took issue with a 2021 US intelligence report which alleged that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had a hand in the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Bigger Goals

According to Axios, several thorny issues remain on the table at the US-mediated talks. While Riyadh has reportedly agreed to keep the islands demilitarised and guarantee freedom of passage through the nearby straits, the kingdom opposed maintaining international observers. Tel Aviv, in turn, appears ready to drop this requirement should Riyadh offer suitable alternatives to ensure the obligations regarding the islands' status are respected, Axios sources said.
Additionally, Israel reportedly wants Saudi Arabia to offer broader air space rights for Israeli airlines. After ties between Israel and Bahrain were normalised in 2020, Riyadh agreed to grant Israeli airlines passage across parts of it airspace, especially on routes towards the UAE and Bahrain. However, further extension of these rights will allow Israeli airlines to save time and fuel on longer flights to India and other parts of Asia.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid meets with Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa in Manama, Bahrain, September 30, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 01.10.2021
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Another issue still reportedly to be resolved concerns greater permits for Israeli Muslims to visit Saudi Arabia on pilgrimage to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, according to Axios.
It is unclear at what stage the talks currently sit. However, should they succeed, it may be the biggest Middle Eastern diplomatic coup for the US and possibly Israel since the signing of the Abraham Accords in 2020. The Abraham Accords allowed Tel Aviv to normalise ties with the UAE and Bahrain with help from the US. Morocco and Sudan later followed suit.
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