An Egyptian court has overruled a previous verdict authorizing the transfer of two strategic Egyptian islands to Saudi Arabia, something President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has agreed to in a controversial deal with Riyadh.
The administrative court ruled on Tuesday that all judicial decisions taken to date by the Urgent Matters Court would be considered invalid. The latter had previously ruled in favor of the bilateral deal enabling the transfer in 2016.
Tiran and Sanafir, as the islands are named, can be used to control access to the Israeli port of Eilat. Recent reports have indicated that Riyadh and Tel Aviv are mulling over establishing economic relations.
“The ruling (on Tuesday) signifies that the land is Egyptian,” said Khaled Ali, a lawyer who argued at the administrative court that the islands belonged to Egypt.
The verdict would affirm that any attempt to transfer the islands to Saudi Arabia would be considered unconstitutional “even if the president ratified the agreement,” he added.
Israel had captured the isles back in 1967 along with vast swathes of other Arab territory but returned them to Egypt as part of the 1979 Camp David Accords deal with Cairo.
The Egyptian parliament has endorsed the accord between Sisi and the Saudi king, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. But the Egyptian president is yet to ratify it. However, he risks further angering the Egyptian public, who have already launched protests against the transfer of the islands to Saudi Arabia.
They accuse Sisi of giving away the country’s territory in exchange for financial and political incentives awarded by Riyadh.