Dubai: Egypt’s Cabinet has approved the transfer of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.

The state-run MENA news agency reported Thursday that President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi’s government approved the deal and sent it to parliament for ratification.

The transfer of the Tiran straits was announced earlier this year alongside a Saudi aid package, leading critics to condemn it as a land sell-off.

The government insists the two islands were always part of Saudi Arabia but were placed under Egypt’s protection decades ago.

“Egypt did not occupy the two islands, but entered them on a Saudi request. History and documents of both countries have not shown any disagreement on the Saudi identity of both islands. But some are trying to fish in troubled waters,” Saudi foreign minister Adel Al Jubeir said in April.

His comments were said to be directed at members of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood who allege that Egypt had handed over the islands to Saudi Arabia which belonged to Egypt.

In 1950, Saudi Arabia’s founder King Abdul Aziz Al Saud had requested Egypt to protect those islands which has been the case since then.

Drawing up the maritime border for both countries had been in progress for over six years.

In April, King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz addressed Egypt’s parliament, a day after Saudi Arabia agreed to open up a $16bn investment fund for cash-strapped Egypt.

During the address, King Salman said the stability of the entire region largely depended upon strong ties between the two countries.

King Salman also renewed support for the creation of a pan-Arab military force proposed by Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi more than a year ago.