The appeal verdict of the High Administrative Court ruled on Monday that the two islands of Tiran and Sanafir are part of Egypt. Malek Adly, one of the lawyers that took the matter to court, hailed the ruling as “a victory for Egypt” although it could affect relations between Cairo and Riyadh.
In April 2016, Egypt signed a deal transferring the two islands to Saudi Arabia but the accord was opposed by Egyptians who staged mass protest demonstrations. Cairo claimed that it was only a guardian of the two islands, which are part of the oil rich kingdom’s territory.
In the Court’s ruling, the State was scolded for failing to provide evidence to back its claim much to the cheers of those in the court room and the jubilant crowd outside.
President Sisi was accused of selling the islands to Saudi Arabia in exchange for the multi-billion aids and grants that his government has been receiving.
The ruling is expected to strain further the ties between Cairo and Riyadh as tension over the issue increased following the rejection of the deal by a lower court in September.
Lawyers Malek Adly and Khaked Ali have always argued that Egypt’s sovereignty over the islands dated back to a treaty in 1906, before Saudi Arabia was founded while the Sisi administration maintained that Egypt stationed its troops there at the Saudis’ request to help protect the islands in 1950.
The uninhabited islands of Tiran and Sanafir are strategically located at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba. Only Egyptian troops and members of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), an international peacekeeping force overseeing the terms of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, are on the islands.