Egypt approves deal to hand over two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia

#EgyptTurmoil

The agreement, announced in April, caused a public uproar and rare protests by Egyptians who said the islands were Egyptian

An aerial view of the coast of the Red Sea and the two islands of Tiran and Sanafir on 1 November, 2016 (Reuters)
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Last update: 
Thursday 29 December 2016 16:35 UTC
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Egypt's government has approved a deal to hand over two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia and has sent it to parliament for ratification on Thursday, according to state television.

Earlier this month, an Egyptian state advisory body recommended that a Cairo court uphold a ruling that annulled an agreement giving Saudi Arabia control of two islands.

The agreement, announced in April, caused a public uproar and rare protests by Egyptians who said the uninhabited islands of Tiran and Sanafir were Egyptian.

In June, the Higher Administrative Court annulled the agreement, saying Egyptian sovereignty over the islands could not be given up. The Egyptian government lodged an appeal.

The government says the islands had always belonged to Saudi Arabia and that Egypt had merely administered them while on lease since the 1950s.

Critics, however, accuse military-backed President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi of "selling" the islands in return for Saudi investments, and that the accord is unconstitutional as state land cannot be compromised under the Egyptian constitution.



The saga deeply wounded national pride and brought people out onto the streets against the Sisi government. 

“Our right to this land is won by blood, not by documents and maps,” protest organisers wrote on their Facebook page at the time, while showing images of Egyptian soldiers on the island of Tiran in 1967.

“We gave more than 100,000 martyrs in our wars with Israel to restore this land. Tiran and Sanafir are our right, Egypt’s right, the right of our children and of our ancestors who were killed there.”

More than 150 protestors were jailed following mass protests against the decision, according to Human Rights Watch.

The Muslim Brotherhood said at the time "that no one has the right to abandon the property and resources of the Egyptian people in exchange for a fistful of dollars."