On Monday an Egyptian court rejected the government’s plan to transfer two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.
The court’s ruling prompted celebrations but it is unclear how this decision could affect Egypt’s relations with Saudi Arabia – which has been financially supportive to Egypt. President Abdul Fattah alSisi’s administration has particularly benefitted from their assistance.
During King Salman’s 5-day visit to the northern African country, Egypt’s president announced that the Tiran and Sanafir islands will be transferred to Saudi Arabia. Both had signed a deal that will found the commencement of the age-old red sea bridge initiative. President al-Sisi also endorsed the bridge to be named after King Salman.
The deal resulted in protests from Egyptians who acknowledged to being taught in school that the red sea islands are properties of Egypt. Over 150 people were arrested and confined during the protests. Report says that many have however been released and acquitted.
The people criticized the move by the government. They accused him of “selling” the islands. They accused the president of seeking to return Saudi Arabia’s financial favours to Egypt. However, President al-Sisi insisted that the islands indeed belonged to the Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia has been supporting Egypt in recent years with aid worth 10 billion dollars. However, in September 2016, Saudi Arabia put a halt on the supply of petroleum to Egypt due to their differences.
In June 2016, the case was taken to court which ruled that the islands belonged to Egypt. However, the Egyptian government appealed for the case to be taken to the Higher Administrative Court.
The court’s ruling on the red sea islands was based on “irrefutable evidence” as well as local and international practices which removed any doubt that the islands’ sovereignty belonged to Egypt alone, Egypt’s news agency MENA said.
Two human rights lawyers challenged the demarcation accord in Egypt’s administrative court system.
One of the lawyers, Khaled Ali, said to Reuters, “So it is not permissible for the president, or prime minister or parliament or cabinet or a referendum to give up this land,
“It is Egyptian land and cannot be given up according to the Egyptian constitution.”