Court stops transfer of Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia

Egypt to challenge the ruling which asserts Tiran and Sanafir remain under Egyptian sovereignty.

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Egyptians protest against the decision to hand over control of two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, April 15, 2016.

Updated Jun 22, 2016

An Egyptian court on Tuesday prevented the government from transferring two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia. The Egyptian government responded by saying they will challenge the court's decision. 

During Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud's visit to Egypt in April, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi announced two Egyptian Islands, Tiran and Sanafir, would be ceded to Saudi Arabia.

“Egyptian sovereignty over the islands holds, and it [is] forbidden to change their status in any form or through any procedure for the benefit of any other state,” said State Council Vice President Judge Yehia El-Dakroury, who tried the suit, according to Egyptian media outlet Ahram Online.

A picture taken on January 14, 2014 through the window of an airplane shows the Red Sea islands of Tiran (foreground) and Sanafir (background) in the Straits of Tiran between Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and Saudi Arabia.

Hours after Tuesday's ruling, the Egyptian government announced to challenge it.

"The government is studying the reasons for the ruling and will [...] challenge it at the higher administrative court of the State Council and request that [...] it be cancelled," Magdy al-Agaty, minister of legal and parliamentary affairs, said.

Egypt's parliament is also due to discuss the demarcation agreement in the coming weeks. 

According to Saudi and Egyptian officials, the islands have only been under temporary Egyptian administration, that legally they have always been part of Saudi territory.

Egypt took control of the islands in 1950 with the permission of Saudi Arabia to protect them from Israel.

Nonetheless, thousands of Egyptians took to the streets to demonstrate the government’s decision to hand over the islands. They said the agreement with Saudi Arabia was unconstitutional. More than 150 people connected with the protests have been sentenced to prison by an Egyptian court.

Egyptian activists shout slogans against President Abdel Fattah al Sisi and his government during a demonstration protesting the government's decision to transfer two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, in front of the Press Syndicate Cairo, Egypt, April 15.

Critics have accused Sisi of "selling" Egyptian territory in return for economic benefits from Saudi Arabia.


TRTWorld and agencies