(Reuters) An Egyptian human rights lawyer said Monday he had launched an appeal against a court ruling which backed Cairo’s proposed transfer of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government announced last year a maritime demarcation accord with Saudi Arabia, which has given billions of dollars of aid to Egypt, ceding control of the islands to the Gulf kingdom.
The proposal angered many Egyptians and the issue was referred to the courts – irritating Riyadh and raising political tensions between two major Arab states and traditional allies.
The islands of Tiran and Sanafir, both uninhabited, are situated in the narrow entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba leading to Jordan and the Zionist entity.
After an initial ruling against the transfer last June, the government appealed and the case was referred to the Higher Administrative Court which also ruled against the proposed transfer, saying the islands’ Egyptian sovereignty was incontestable.
On Sunday, just four days after Sisi and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman held a public meeting at an Arab summit in Jordan, another Egyptian court decreed that the administrative court’s ruling was void – potentially reviving the deal.
Human rights lawyer Khaled Ali said he submitted an appeal, arguing that the administrative court had the final say and the matter was beyond the jurisdiction of the Court of Urgent Matters which issued the latest ruling.
Sunday’s verdict “reflects the continued attempts of the regime to circumvent the final ruling of the Higher Administrative Court”, Ali said in a statement.
Saudi and Egyptian officials had argued that the islands belonged to Saudi Arabia and were only under Egyptian control because Riyadh asked Cairo in 1950 to protect them.
But lawyers who had opposed the accord said Egypt’s sovereignty over the islands dated back to a treaty in 1906, before Saudi Arabia was founded.