Egypt: Transfer of Red Sea Islands would be unconstitutional, Administrative Court

Following the approval last week by the Egyptian Parliament of the agreement between Cairo and Riyadh regarding the transfer of the Tiran and Sanafir Islands to Saudi Arabia, Egypt’s High Administrative Court on Tuesday ruled that previous judicial decisions in favor of transferring the two Red Sea islands were invalid.

The Egyptian government made the controversial decision to hand over the islands to Saudi Arabia following a secret deal between Cairo and Riyadh during the landmark visit of King Salman of Saudi Arabia to Egypt in April 2016.

Lawyer Khaled Ali who has been challenging the agreement in the courts said Tuesday’s “ruling signifies that the land is Egyptian” and the ratification of the agreement by the President would be considered unconstitutional.

President Sisi, who enjoys strong support at the Parliament, is yet to ratify the agreement. The Speaker of the parliament Ali Abdel Aal had stated in the sessions leading to the approval of the agreement that he has “nothing to do with the ruling of any court of law” and that “these rulings are the concern of the judiciary and they amount to nil.”

As tension builds up over the issue, Lawyer Ali stated that “now the ball is in the president’s court.”

Ratifying the deal could lead to mass protests in the country. Critics describe it as a sale of Egyptian territory to the Saudis for the sake of financial support. Cairo argues that the two islands belong to Saudi Arabia and that Egypt was only custodian of the two Islands since the 1950s at the request of Riyadh.

In the 1967 Middle East War, Israel captured the two islands before handing them over to Egypt again as part of the 1979 Camp David Accords. Lying at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba, Tiran and Sanafir can be used to control access to the Israeli port of Eilat.

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