JERUSALEM (May. 19)
The Foreign Ministry confirmed tonight reports that the United States Embassy had asked Israel to withdraw its forces from Tiran Island, which commands the Gulf of Aqaba, and is claimed by Saudi Arabia, The request was made several months ago. It was rejected by Israel and the Americans have not raised the subject again, the Foreign Ministry said.
Earlier today, the newspaper, Maariv, reported that the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv notified Israeli authorities that Saudi Arabia was pressing for the return of Tiran which it had “loaned” to Egypt in the 1950s so that the latter could blockade the Israeli port of Eilat. According to Maariv, the Embassy here had word of the Arabian demand from the U.S. Embassy in Riad, the capital of Saudi Arabia. The paper reported that the Saudians were exerting pressure on the U.S. through American oil companies operating in Saudi Arabia.
The Foreign Ministry said tonight that Israel informed the U.S. that Tiran had been captured from Egyptian forces during the Six-Day War and is vital to Israel’s security as are other occupied Arab territories in the absence of a formal peace agreement. Egypt’s closing of the Tiran Straits last May was the immediate cause of the Six-Day War.