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Egypt's top court approves Saudi ownership of contested islands

The deal involves the contested Tiran and Sanafir Red Sea islands [Getty]

Date of publication: 4 March, 2018

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Egypt's Supreme Court dismissed legal challenges to the controversial 2016 deal that will transfer two Red Sea islands from the north African country to Saudi Arabia on Saturday.

Egypt’s top court dismissed on Saturday all legal challenges to a 2016 deal that would transfer two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, AP reported.

The Supreme Court’s verdict dismisses prior opposing rulings by the Supreme Administrative Court and the Court of Urgent Matters.

The Supreme Court also said no other court has jurisdiction over the matter.

“The signature of the representative of the Egyptian state on the maritime borders agreement between the governments of Egypt and Saudi Arabia is undoubtedly an act of sovereignty,” the Supreme court said in a public statement.

Egypt’s parliament backed the deal in June 2017, with President Sisi ratifying it one week later.

After the deal was signed in 2016, protests broke out in Egypt in a rare sign of dissent against Sisi’s rule in the country - demonstrations have been effectively banned since the July 2013 coup.

Opponents to the deal say Egypt’s control of the islands dates back over a century but Egyptian and Saudi officials maintain the islands are part of Saudi Arabia, falling under Egyptian sovereignty after Cairo was asked to protect them in 1950.

Saudi Arabia has been a staunch supporter of President Sisi, giving billions in aid to the country.

Presidential elections in Egypt are due between 26–28 March – Sisi is almost guaranteed to prevail after all major contenders were sidelined or jailed by the government.

The Supreme Court’s ruling comes one day before crown prince and de facto Saudi ruler Mohammed bin Salman is scheduled to arrive in Egypt.

Riyadh also plans to construct a bridge spanning the Red Sea that will connect Saudi Arabia to Egypt as part of a $1.7 billion investment deal.

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