Egypt is set to keep administrative control over two Red Sea islands Cairo plans to transfer to the Saudi regime under a controversial deal.
A government report advising parliament on the terms of the agreement said on Sunday that Cairo would maintain administrative control but not sovereignty over the uninhabited islands.
“The agreement only ends (Egyptian) sovereignty and does not end the necessity of Egypt protecting this area for reasons of Egyptian and Saudi Arabian national security,” the report said.
Egyptians would not need visas to visit the islands of Tiran and Sanafir, located about 4 kilometers apart in the Red Sea, the report added.
They are situated in the narrow entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba leading to Jordan and the occupied Palestinian territories.
The North African government submitted the report to parliament to answer questions from lawmakers who had objected to the transfer.
Some Egyptian lawmakers argued that ceding territory amounted to treason.
Any such transfer must be also approved by the parliament. The legislators have not voted on the deal yet.
The parliament on Sunday began discussions about the accord ahead of a vote.
The islands transfer to Saudi Arabia sparked fury among many Egyptians and had already been declared illegal by an Egyptian court.
President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s government announced last year a maritime demarcation accord with Saudi Arabia, ceding control of the Tiran and Sanafir islands to the Persian Gulf kingdom.
Since its announcement by the government of Sisi, the Cairo-Riyadh controversial maritime re-demarcation has triggered unprecedented protests by the Egyptian public and a large number of lawyers who say the islands are Egyptian. The deal also initiated a lengthy litigation process by both the government and the opponents.
Demonstrators have accused Sisi of surrendering Egyptian territory in return for Saudi money amid reports that Cairo was receiving 20 billion dollars in aid from Riyadh to relinquish the sovereignty of the islands.
A series of court rulings and protests have irritated Riyadh and raised tensions between two Arab states.
Riyadh and Cairo argue that the islands belong to Saudi Arabia and that the Arab kingdom asked Egypt in 1950 to protect them. However, lawyers and opponents say Egypt’s sovereignty over the islands dates back to a 1906 treaty, before Saudi Arabia was even founded.