Egypt’s gov­ern­ment ap­proves trans­fer of is­lands to Saudis

Kuwait Times - - LOCAL -

Egypt’s Cab­i­net has ap­proved the trans­fer of two Red Sea is­lands to Saudi Ara­bia de­spite protests ear­lier this year and a court rul­ing the trans­fer un­con­sti­tu­tional. The state-run MENA news agency re­ported Thurs­day that Pres­i­dent Ab­delFat­tah el-Sissi’s gov­ern­ment ap­proved the deal and sent it to par­lia­ment for rat­i­fi­ca­tion de­spite the court rul­ing, which the gov­ern­ment has ap­pealed. The trans­fer was an­nounced along­side a Saudi aid pack­age, lead­ing crit­ics to con­demn it as a land sell-off.

The sign­ing of the agree­ment in April set off the largest demon­stra­tions of el-Sissi’s two-year rule. The gov­ern­ment says the un­in­hab­ited is­lands, Ti­ran and Sanafir, were al­ways part of Saudi Ara­bia but were placed un­der Egypt’s pro­tec­tion decades ago over fears of an Is­raeli at­tack. Tarek al Awady, one of the lawyers who filed the court case against the agree­ment, said that they will chal­lenge the gov­ern­ment’s ap­proval of the deal in court, call­ing it un­con­sti­tu­tional.

He says nei­ther the gov­ern­ment nor the par­lia­ment can con­tra­dict the court rul­ing. A higher court is set to rule on the gov­ern­ment’s ap­peal on Jan 16. Saudi Ara­bia has pro­vided bil­lions of dol­lars in aid to Egypt since el-Sissi, who was then the mil­i­tary chief, led the over­throw of an elected Is­lamist pres­i­dent in 2013. But ties have wors­ened in re­cent months as Egypt has ex­pressed sup­port for the Syrian gov­ern­ment. Saudi Ara­bia is a lead­ing spon­sor of the rebels fight­ing to top­ple Syrian Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad.

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