TEHRAN (defapress) - Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Saturday ratified an agreement that cedes sovereignty over two uninhabited Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, brushing off widespread public criticism of the deal.
News ID: 65217
Publish Date: 25June 2017 - 12:35
The Red Sea islands accord has become politically sensitive
for Sisi. He counts on Saudi Arabia as a key ally, but street protests broke
out over the agreement last year among Egyptians angered over the concession.
Egypt's parliament last week backed the deal handing control
of Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia, but it has also become the
subject of a legal tussle between different courts over jurisdiction, Reuters
"President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has ratified the
maritime demarcation agreement between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," the cabinet said in a statement.
The announcement was made just as the Muslim holy month of
Ramadan ends and on the eve of Eid al-Fitr festivities, a major public holiday
when Egyptians are busy preparing to spend time with their families.
The presidency did not immediately respond to a request for
comment. Government lawyer Rafiq Sharif told Reuters the decree was now law and
the two uninhabited islands were under Saudi sovereignty.
All court decisions on the agreement were temporarily
suspended this week by the head of the constitutional court, until it makes a
ruling on which institution had the final say.
Parliamentary leaders and government lawyers say the House
of Representatives is the only entity allowed to rule on sovereignty. But in
June last year the country's highest administrative court ruled Egypt's
sovereignty must stand.
Sisi's government announced the maritime agreement last year
with Saudi Arabia, an ally which has given billions of dollars of aid to Egypt.
The Egyptian and Saudi governments said the islands are Saudi but have been
subject to Egyptian protection.
Saudi Arabia had helped Sisi since he toppled President Mohamed
Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013, and legal wrangling over the Red Sea
deal was a source of tensions between the two countries.
After last year's administrative court ruling, Saudi Arabia
temporarily halted fuel shipments to Egypt, part of its aid deal. At the time,
both sides denied any political fallout was involved and relations have since
"The transfer has been a long time coming; Riyadh has
made it clear they expect the islands and Cairo agreed," said H.A.
Hellyer, senior non-resident fellow at American think tank Atlantic Council.
"But considering the amount of opposition to the
transfer, the speed at which it happened is instructive. It shows Sisi's
administration doesn't feel there is much of a risk to be taken."
Still, Egyptians are increasingly critical over the state of
the country's economy after years of political upheaval and a devaluation, tax
rises and subsidy cuts introduced by Sisi's government.
The islands issue touched a patriotic nerve, bringing
thousands of protesters to the streets in April chanting "people want the
fall of the regime", a slogan little heard since the Arab Spring uprisings
Those rallies were one of the first signals the former
general no longer enjoyed the broad public support that let him round up
thousands of opponents after he seized power.
"Now that the president has ratified it, the agreement
is a law," said Khaled Ali, chief lawyer defending the case for the
islands being Egyptian and a former presidential candidate.
"So we will continue the legal battle to show that it
is unconstitutional and void."