04/03/2017, 10.23
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Egyptian Court unblocks transfer of disputed islands to Saudi Arabia

The judges reject administrative court decision issued last January. At the center of the dispute control of Tiran and Sanafir islands, on the Red Sea. Uninhabited and desert, they have enormous strategic value for the control of navigation in the Red Sea. The Parliament will take a final decision on the matter.


Cairo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - An Egyptian court annulled a previous ruling that blocked the transfer of sovereignty of two (disputed)  islands to Saudi Arabia. According to judicial sources, the court of law for urgent appeals has rejected the decision of the High Administrative Court last January.

Previously, the decision to transfer the two uninhabited islands of Tiran and Sanafir, on the Red Sea, had sparked fierce controversy in the Land of the Pharaohs.

In the past, the court had ruled on the disputed islands with the Saudis; Also in this case the judge’s ruling is liable to a counter-appeal. Moreover, it is for the Parliament to rule definitively on the matter and – in should it be the case – give approval to the transfer of sovereignty.

Tiran and Sanafir, located at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba, were promised to Saudi Arabia during an official visit by Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi about a year ago. In return, Riyadh agreed to grant an billion dollar aid package to Cairo. The decision of the Head of State had raised strong controversy at home, with the Nationalists taking to the streets "to defend" the territorial integrity and allegations of violations of the Constitution.

The two islands in question, uninhabited and desert, lack resources but are rich in strategic value as they are located the Red Sea shipping route in both directions. Granted by Saudi Arabia to Egypt, these two islands have been used as a weapon in the Israeli-Arab war, impeding navigation to Israeli shipping.

Israel occupied the islands along with the Sinai until the signing of the peace agreements between Cairo and Tel Aviv known as the Camp David Accords. Article 5 of the agreements expressly states that the islands will not host any military presence, let alone be used to prevent the free movement of ships.

In January, the High Administrative Court had denied the transfer because the government failed to provide sufficient evidence that the islands were originally the property of the Saudis. Yesterday, the court called upon to rule on "urgent" issues that are likely to bog down the whole judicial system, has upheld the appeal filed by Lawyer Ashraf Farahat. "The administrative court - said the lawyer - has no authority to rule on issues of sovereignty."


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