Egyptian parliamentary committee to discuss Tiran and Sanafir deal amid preoccupation with Al-Sisi’s ‘state of emergency’

The speaker of the Egyptian parliament has referred the Egyptian-Saudi Tiran and Sanafir deal to a parliamentary committee for discussion though the agreement was annulled by a final court ruling earlier this year. 

Ali Abdel-Aal, Egypt’s parliament speaker, took the advantage of  the Egyptians’ preoccupation with the recent church attacks and Al-Sisi’s decision to impose a state of emergency in the country, and referred the Egyptian-Saudi Tiran and Sanafir deal to the parliament’s legislative and constitutional committee for discussion. It is noteworthy that the agreement was annulled by a final court ruling earlier this year.

In response, Haitham al-Hariri, a member of parliament, said that the Egyptian parliament took advantage of the state of emergency that has recently been imposed in Egypt and referred the maritime demarcation agreement to the legislative and constitutional committee.

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency after two deadly bombings hit Coptic churches on Sunday, killing at least 44 people.

On Sunday, Egypt was under attack as two bombing hit the country targeting two Coptic Churches.

The first bomb went off at a Coptic Christian church in the Nile Delta town of Tanta, killing at least 27 people and wounding over 70.

Hours after the first bomb, another bomb exploded at Saint Mark’s Cathedral in the coastal city of Alexandria, killing at least 17 people and wounding 38 just after Pope Tawadros II finished services, as reported by the Associated Press.

His aides later told local media that he had escaped unharmed.

Al-Hariri added that what happened in the Egyptian parliament opposes the constitution, the law and the parliamentary norms as it didn’t respect the Egyptian blood of Palm Sunday victims and referred the agreement to the parliamentary committee under the state of emergency ignoring the pain and sadness that pervaded the country.

He also added that a final court ruling regarding this case has been already issued by the High Administrative Court.

Accordingly, since the agreement has been discussed by the judiciary, the parliament should not interfere in the case.

During his visit to Washington, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi assured US President Donald Trump that Cairo will hand over the two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, according to a US-based Egyptian diplomat.

The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said “Sisi said that Egypt has not pulled back from the deal and that they are serious about carrying through with it after parliament approves the legal requirements.”

In addition, last week, Egyptian court voided a previous decision to block the transfer the two Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia.

The court’s ruling came days after Sisi met with Saudi King Salman on the sidelines of the Arab League summit in Jordan, breaking the ice after months of tensions between the longtime allies.

It is worth to mention that the Egyptian government approved the controversial deal to hand over the two Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to the Gulf kingdom in December and has sent it to parliament for ratification.

However, Egypt’s High Administrative Court rejected the deal in a final ruling last January, affirming that the islands belonged to Egypt alone and that the government has not provided sufficient evidence proving otherwise.

The 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.