Cairo: Egypt’s government has approved a deal to hand over two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia and sent it to parliament for ratification, despite a legal dispute over the plan, according to state television.
The deal, announced in April, caused a public uproar and protests by Egyptians who said the uninhabited islands of Tiran and Sanafir belonged to their country.
In June, Egypt’s higher administrative court annulled the agreement, saying Egyptian sovereignty over the islands could not be given up.
The Egyptian government lodged an appeal. Earlier this month, an Egyptian state advisory body recommended the court uphold its original decision, in a report seen by Reuters. The court is scheduled to issue its final verdict on 16 January and is not obliged to follow the advisory body’s report.
Tiran and Sanafir are situated in the narrow entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba leading to Jordan and Israel.
Saudi and Egyptian officials say they belong to Saudi Arabia and were only under Egyptian control because Riyadh asked Cairo in 1950 to protect them.
Lawyers who opposed the handover said Egyptian sovereignty over the islands dated to a 1906 treaty, which was before Saudi Arabia was founded.