Egyp­tian court rules out Saudi bor­der agree­ment

7 Days in Dubai - - GLOBAL NEWS -

An Egyp­tian court has ruled that a de­mar­ca­tion bor­der agree­ment be­tween Egypt and Saudi Ara­bia un­der which Cairo would sur­ren­der con­trol over two strategic Red Sea is­lands to Riyadh is il­le­gal.

The ver­dict by the ad­min­is­tra­tive court in­flicts a se­ri­ous for­eign pol­icy set­back to Pres­i­dent Ab­del-Fat­tah El Sissi’s govern­ment which has ar­gued that the agree­ment would bring eco­nomic ben­e­fits for Egypt and that the is­lands are owned by Saudi Ara­bia, which placed them un­der Egyp­tian con­trol in 1950 for pro­tec­tion.

The ver­dict by the ad­min­is­tra­tive court, which rules on cases in­volv­ing the govern­ment, can be ap­pealed.

There was no com­ment from the Saudi or Egyp­tian gov­ern­ments on the court rul­ing. Egypt’s par­lia­ment, which is packed by govern­ment sup­port­ers, has yet to en­dorse the agree­ment.

In a brief ver­dict met with an erup­tion of ap­plause and chants, judge Yahya Dakroury ruled that the two is­lands at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba re­main un­der Egyp­tian sovereignty and banned “any changes on the two is­lands for the ben­e­fit of any for­eign coun­try”.

The un­in­hab­ited is­lands of Ti­ran and Sanafir con­trol narrow ship­ping lanes lead­ing north to the port cities of Ei­lat and Aqaba in Is­rael and Jor­dan re­spec­tively. The clo­sure of those lanes in 1967 by then Egyp­tian Pres­i­dent Ga­mal Ab­del- Nasser is chiefly blamed for the out­break of the June 1967 Arab-Is­raeli war in which Egypt lost the Si­nai Penin­sula. It was re­turned to Egypt, to­gether with the two is­lands, un­der its landmark 1979 peace treaty with Is­rael.

The Egyp­tian-Saudi de­mar­ca­tion agree­ment was an­nounced in April dur­ing a high-pro­file visit to Cairo by the Saudi monarch, King Sal­man, when he an­nounced a multi-bil­lion dol­lar aid pack­age for Egypt.

That has given rise to al­le­ga­tions, re­jected by the govern­ment, that the is­lands would be given to the Saudis as a pay-off.

Saudi Ara­bia has been a ma­jor fi­nan­cial backer to Egypt since El Sissi, as de­fence min­is­ter, led the mil­i­tary’s 2013 oust­ing of Mo­hammed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected pres­i­dent.

El Sissi has ac­knowl­edged that the de­mar­ca­tion ne­go­ti­a­tions were held in se­crecy to avoid the un­wanted me­dia at­ten­tion and op­po­si­tion to the deal. “Please, I don’t want any­one to talk about this any­more,” he an­grily said in April.

“This is a very im­por­tant step,” said Khalid Ali, a prom­i­nent rights lawyer, who brought the case against the govern­ment over the deal.

“I ap­peal to the Egyp­tian govern­ment... to im­ple­ment the court’s rul­ing. This is the land of our an­ces­tors; you must pro­tect it, and those is­lands are Egyp­tian and will re­main Egypt for­ever,” he said.

HIGH-PRO­FILE VISIT: King Sal­man with Egyp­tian Pres­i­dent Ab­del-Fat­tah El Sissi

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