Days after Al-Sisi Met Saudi King, Egyptian Court Voids Previous Verdict Blocking Transfer of Red Sea Islands

The Cairo Court for Urgent Matters ruled that the country’s High Administrative Court (HAC), which ruled in January that the two Islands of Tiran and Sanafir belong to Egypt, had no jurisdiction over the matter.

The Egyptian court has voided a previous decision to block the transfer of two Sea Islands to Saudi Arabia just days after the countries’ leaders met following months of tension.

On Sunday, the Court of Urgent Matters nullified a Supreme Court ruling that blocked the handover of Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia.

Last week, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met Saudi King Salman on the sidelines of the Arab League summit in Jordan, breaking the ice after months of tensions.

Last January, a court rejected a controversial government deal that gave away the two strategic islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia which led to massive criticism and outrage among the Egyptians.

Critics, journalists, and activists accused Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of “selling Egypt” to Saudi Arabia in return for financial aid.

In response, thousands of Egyptians took to the streets in protests on April 15 (Land Day) and April 25 (Sinai Liberation Day) against the agreement, calling for the “Downfall of the Regime.”

The demonstrations were the first huge movement against the al-Sisi regime that included different political affiliations and groups.

The Egyptian security forces  led arrest campaigns of activists and journalists who opposed the transfer of the islands.

Moreover, Egypt’s courts have fined tens of the protesters while others were handed down prison sentences that ranged from two to five years.

In addition, a court sentenced seven defendants to eight years in prison each and fined them.

The two Red Sea islands, which are strategically significant as they both control maritime activity in the Gulf, are located at the Gulf of Aqaba.

The Tiran Island is located in the Gulf of al-Aqaba, about 5 or 6 km from the Sinai Peninsula, and it has a total area of about 80 square km. Sanafir Island lies to the east of Tiran with a total area of 33 square km.
Recently, signs of reconciliation appeared between Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

First, media reports cited the Egyptian Petroleum Ministry saying that Saudi Arabian state oil company Aramco will resume oil product supply to Egypt some six months after halting them suddenly.

The move signaled a potential thaw in relations after months of tension after abruptly suspending delivering shipments of petroleum products last October.

The move was announced after Egypt voted in favor of a Russian-drafted UN Security Council resolution on Syria that Saudi Arabia strongly opposed.

It is worth to mention that Saudi Arabia is a leading supporter of the Syrian opposition, while Egypt has pushed for a political solution that might keep Syria’s dictator Bashar al-Assad in power.

Second, King Salman invited al-Sisi to visit Saudi Arabia during their recent meeting in the Arab Summit.

In fact, the latest court decision on Sunday has been met with angry responses.

Khaled Ali, the head lawyer contesting the transfer of two islands, said in a statement that the ruling was “unconstitutional and illegal”.

Ali said on Facebook, “This is a pathetic attempt to legitimize a deal to waiver Egyptian land.”

In the same context, Egyptian lawmaker Haitham al-Hariri said that the Court of Urgent Matters did not have the right to nullify the previous ruling.