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Egypt reverses Saudi-Egyptian Red Sea Islands transfer

Exclusive to The Middle East Online

Edited by Nelly Tawil

An Egypt’s highest administrative Court in Cairo has reversed its decision to hand over two Red Seas islands to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday. 

The verdict declare void a maritime border accord with Saudi Arabia, which would have seen Egypt surrender control of the Tiran and Sanafir islands at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba.

The judge who issued the ruling, State Council Vice President Judge Yehia El-Dakroury, reasoned that since the agreement was void, “the islands should remain part of Egyptian territory and within Egyptian borders; Egyptian sovereignty over the islands holds, and it forbidden to change their status in any form or through any procedure for the benefit of any other state.”

The judicial source commented that “the ruling disregarded all [arguments] presented by the government.”

The source added that the government has not attempted a final administrative move to execute the deal.

The State Commissioners Office, which issues recommendations to the administrative court, was unlawful, and that the judiciary has no jurisdiction over the islands issue since it is a question of sovereignty, the source also claimed.

The agreement, which was signed by Egypt and Saudi Arabia during a five-day visit by Saudi King Salman to Cairo, stipulated that the two islands in the southern entrance of the Red Sea’s Gulf of Aqaba fall within Saudi waters, thus paving the way for a transfer of sovereignty to Riyadh.

Egyptian rights lawyer Khaled Ali and a number of other lawyers had filed a lawsuit with Egypt’s Administrative Court at the State Council arguing that Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail and Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel Al had wrongfully waived Egyptian sovereignty rights over the two islands.

Led by Khaled Ali, a lawyer and former presidential hopeful, they argued the border demarcation agreement was illegal, citing article 151 of the Egyptian constitution, which states that all matters regarding the drawing of Egypt’s borders must be reviewed by the parliament.

The Egyptian constitution also states that a national referendum is required before any changes to the state’s borders can be finalised.

One of the lawyers who co-filed the lawsuit, Malek Adly, has been detained since late April over under of “spreading false rumors and inciting protests against the agreement,” AhramOnline reported.

The agreement in April sparked protests across Egypt. More than 150 people were jailed in connection to riots at the time, although many were later released or had their sentences reduced.

Egyptian troops have been stationed on the two islands since the 1950s at the request of Saudi Arabia.