Egypt approves transfer of islands to Saudi Arabia

When the transfer of the islands was announced last year, it sparked protests. The islands have been held by Egypt since 1906, before Saudi Arabia was created.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el Sisi is expected to ratify the deal if approved by parliament. (File photo)

Egypt's parliament on Wednesday voted to hand over two uninhabited Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia later on Wednesday after a key parliamentary committee approved it, the committee chairman has said.

Wednesday's vote, in which those lawmakers in favour of the accord were asked to stand up in the house, came shortly after the 596-seat chamber opened a debate on the pact earlier in the day.

The outcome of the vote was a foregone conclusion since the legislature is packed with supporters of the government of President Abdel Fattah el Sisi which government signed the deal during a visit last year by Saudi King Salman.

All that needs to happen is for Sisi to formally ratify the deal. It was not immediately clear when this would happen.

Earlier, the House of Representatives Committee on Defence and National Security referred the plan to parliament for a final vote before it can be ratified by President Sisi, committee chairman Kamal Amer, a retired major general, told journalists.

Sisi's government last year announced a maritime demarcation accord with Saudi Arabia, which has given billions of dollars of aid to Egypt, ceding control of islands of Tiran and Sanafir to the Gulf kingdom.

Protests

The transfer plan sparked rare street protests last year from many Egyptians, who say their country's sovereignty over the islands dates back to a treaty in 1906, before Saudi Arabia was founded.

Dozens gathered in downtown Cairo on Tuesday evening and organisers said a handful were briefly detained.

The treaty was referred to the courts – irritating Riyadh and raising tensions between two major Arab states and traditional allies.

The highest administrative court has blocked the deal but parliament insists the matter is constitutionally within its domain, putting the legislature and the judiciary at odds.

Source: 
Reuters