A picture taken on November 12, 2015 from the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh shows tourists preparing to board a boat in front the Tiran island./ AFP PHOTO / STRINGER
CAIRO – 11 June 2017: Egypt will maintain administrative control over the two disputed Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir that were handed over to Saudi Arabia as part of a controversial deal, according an Egyptian governmental report.
Per the report, submitted by the government to the Legislative Committee of the Parliament Sunday, the deal provides that the two islands, located at the entrance of the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea, will remain under Egypt’s control even after transferring them to Saudi Arabia for “political reasons.”
“The agreement terminates only the part which concerns (Egyptian) sovereignty; it does not terminates the necessity and justification of Egypt’s protection of this region due to security reasons,” the report said.
It added that the Saudi government understood that Egypt would keep administrative control of the islands to protect the entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba “due to Egypt’s vital role in protecting the region’s maritime navigation.”
The committee, chaired by House Speaker Ali Abdel Aal, held its the first session Sunday to discuss the deal in which Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi transferred the islands to Saudi Arabia during Saudi King Salman’s visit to Cairo in April 2016. Ever since the deal was made, debate has persisted over which country should rightfully claim sovereignty.
However, the Saudi government may sue Egypt internationally if the deal was rejected by Parliament, the Egyptian government said in its Sunday report.
Should Saudi authorities file a lawsuit Egypt would likely lose, the report continued, noting that the agreement is “sound and valid.”
According to the report, “Egypt occupied the islands upon a request from Saudi Arabia to protect them from Israeli aggression” in 1967.
Deal ‘based on Mubarak’s 1990 decree’
In a speech before Parliament, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said the deal was based on a presidential decree issued by former President Hosni Mubarak on Jan. 9, 1990 to “regulate maritime boundaries.” The 1990 decree “does not say that the two islands are Egyptian,” the minister said.
Shoukry said the government’s decision to announce Saudi sovereignty over the two islands was also based on a letter written on March 3, 1990 by former Foreign Minister Esmat Abdel Magid to his Saudi counterpart regarding “Saudi identity of the Tiran and Sanafir.”
Abiding by international convictions and the Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty, along with the protocol of Multinational Force and Observers, Egypt contacted Israeli authorities to confirm that Israel complies with the Egyptian-Saudi deal after transferring the islands to Saudi Arabia.
The foreign minister added that Israeli authorities confirmed their abidance to the Egyptian-Saudi deal. Israel said the deal does not breach the peace treaty, he continued.
During the session, head of the Maritime Surveying Section of the Naval Army Sherif al-Assal said negotiations between Egypt and Saudi Arabia over the islands began in January 2010. He added that a total of 11 rounds of discussion were held between two sides, and presented the maps and documents upon which the deal was reached.
Head of the Geographical Association of Egypt al-Sayyed al-Husseini told Parliament that no Egyptian maps include the two islands.
At the end of Sunday’s session, House of Representatives Speaker Abdel Aal announced that the discussion will resume on Monday.
The agreement between Egypt and Saudi Arabia was opposed by some activists, even spurring lawyers to file a lawsuit against the government before the Administrative Court to annul the deal.
Then, two different court rulings were issued regarding the agreement. The first, issued by the Supreme Administrative Court in June 2016, nullified the agreement, while the second verdict, issued in April by the Summary Proceedings Court, ruled for its validity.
To settle the judicial dispute, the deal was referred to the Supreme Constitutional Court, which is the last stop to consider it.
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