Egypt to transfer strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi

Cheryl Sanders
April 3, 2017

Khaled Ali, one of the lawyers that filed the initial lawsuit asserting the Egyptian sovereignity of the two islands said on Sunday that Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court judgement cannot be suspended because its ruliing was final.

On Sunday, just four days after Sisi and Saudi Arabia's King Salman held a public meeting at an Arab summit in Jordan, another Egyptian court decreed that the administrative court's ruling was void - potentially reviving the deal. The transfer of the islands has also been controversial, as critics have accused the Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi of giving the islands to Saudi Arabia in exchange for financial support [BBC report] for al-Sisi and the current Egyptian government. The current dispute between the two courts might need to be settled by the Supreme Constitutional Court, the nation's highest judicial body, he said. Any final transfer agreement must be further approved by the Egyptian parliament.

An Egyptian cabinet announcement said that technical work on the two countries' maritime boundary had shown that the islands of Tiran and Sanafir were within Saudi territorial waters.

They are considered strategically important because they lie on the key sea route to the Jordanian port of Aqaba and the Israeli port of Eilat. The accord, which sparked street protests, awarded sovereignty of the islands to Saudi Arabia, even though most Egyptians believe they belong to Egypt.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's government announced a year ago a maritime demarcation accord with Saudi Arabia, which has given billions of dollars of aid to Egypt, ceding control of the islands to the Gulf kingdom.

The Court for Urgent Matters ruled against a verdict by a separate court in January that banned the handover of the islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Riyadh, state television reported on its website.

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