June 22, 2016

EGYPT: Egyptian Government Appeals Court Blocked The Controversial Handover Of Two Uninhabited Red Sea Islands To Saudi Arabia.

France24 news
written by AFP staff
Wednesday June 22, 2016

CAIRO - Egypt's government said Wednesday it had lodged an appeal against a court decision to block the controversial handover of two uninhabited Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.

The deal over the islands of Tiran and Sanafir prompted some of the largest public protests in two years when it was signed in April.

The country's State Council ruled on Tuesday that the islands, strategically situated at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba, must remain under Egyptian sovereignty.

"The government will present all the documents it has to demonstrate the integrity and strength of the case it presented to the Supreme Administrative Court which has the right to rule on the case," the prime minister's office said in a statement Wednesday.

"It will also present a dossier containing documents and maps that will assist in resolving the case."

The government argues that the islands -- which can be used to control access to the Israeli port of Eilat -- have always been Saudi territory but were leased to Cairo in 1950 following a request by Riyadh.

It says the deal to transfer them was based on a decree by since-ousted president Hosni Mubarak. Cairo says Mubarak had even informed the United Nations about the matter in 1990.

The deal, signed during a visit to Cairo by Saudi Arabia's King Salman in April, prompted an outcry from many Egyptians, and sparked protests against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Sisi, whose government depends heavily on Saudi largesse, faced criticism on social media for "selling" the islands in return for multi-billion-dollar investment deals with Riyadh.

More than 100 people were jailed for up to five years for taking part in demonstrations against the deal that police quickly dispersed, but they were later freed on appeal.

Oil-rich Saudi Arabia is one of the main regional backers of Sisi, a former army chief who has overseen a crackdown on the opposition since ousting his Islamist predecessor Mohamed Morsi in 2013.


The Malay Mail Online
written by Staff
April 11, 2011

CAIRO, April 11 — Since King Salman of Saudi Arabia arrived in Cairo on Thursday for a five-day visit, the leader of the oil-rich kingdom has lavished his Egyptian allies with promises of aid and investment.

But this time, instead of writing a blank check with little more than a polite “thank you” to show for it, Salman will return home today with something more substantial in return: two islands in a strategic corner of the Red Sea.

Egypt’s Cabinet announced Saturday that it was transferring sovereignty of Tiran and Sanafir, arid and uninhabited islands at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba, to Saudi Arabia.

The Cabinet tried to suggest that the transfer, pending approval from Parliament, merely returned Saudi Arabia’s own territory.

Saudi Arabia transferred Tiran and Sanafir to Egyptian control in 1950 amid concerns that Israel might seize them.

The announcement elicited vivid protests from Egyptians who have for decades considered the islands to be Egyptian land. And it set off a debate over whether President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi had made a humiliating concession to a wealthy ally.

In a flood of social media posts, critics called el-Sissi “Awaad,” referring to a character in an old Egyptian song who had sold his land — a shameful act in the eyes of rural Egyptians.

“The island is for a billion, the pyramids are for two, and they come with two gift statues on top,” the satirist Bassem Youssef wrote on Twitter.

A small demonstration erupted in Tahrir Square, site of the 2011 protests that led to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.

At least five people were arrested there Sunday, an Interior Ministry official said.

“Whatever the legal situation, the optics of this move are terrible,” said Samer Shehata, an associate professor of Middle East studies at the University of Oklahoma, referring to the transfer of the two islands.

“Here you have Salman coming to Egypt, pledging billions of dollars in aid and investment, and in exchange these islands are handed over,” Shehata said.

“It seems to many Egyptians that the president is selling land for Saudi riyals.”

El-Sissi has faced unusually sharp criticism recently for his handling of the struggling economy and the death of an Italian graduate student, Giulio Regeni. As censure of the islands deal grew, supporters of el-Sissi came to the president’s defense, chiding Egyptians for lamenting the fate of islands few had ever visited.

“All of a sudden, everyone is acting as if they were vacationing there, when none had gone anywhere near it,” the television presenter Amr Adeeb said in an impatient outburst on his show Al Qahera Al Youm.

Salman’s visit has dominated life in Cairo for days, exacerbating the city’s notoriously snarled traffic as he attended meetings at the presidential palace and visited the ancient Al Azhar mosque.

Egyptian and Saudi officials signed at least 15 agreements during the king’s visit, including a development package for Sinai and an oil deal worth US$22 billion (RM85.47 billion) to Egypt over five years, state news media reported.

The transfer of the two islands, which are less than 5 miles from the coastlines of both countries, was the product of a six-year negotiation over maritime boundaries, officials said. The islands’ value is mostly strategic, and they have been unoccupied except for a handful of soldiers, usually American, stationed on Tiran as part of the 1979 peace agreement between Israel and Egypt.

Political analysts said it was surprising that el-Sissi had agreed to transfer the islands, given sensitivities in Egypt to surrendering land to foreigners. Critics accused President Mohammed Morsi in 2013 of plotting to give part of Sinai to the Palestinian group Hamas.

After el-Sissi came to power that year in a military takeover, he introduced a clause in the constitution that explicitly prohibited ceding Egyptian territory.

“The irony of the post-2013 regime ceding Tiran to Saudi Arabia after having inserted this clause will not be lost on those with any political memory of the controversies of Morsi’s year in office,” Nathan Brown, a scholar at George Washington University, said in an email.

For el-Sissi, losing the islands might be worth it for the potential diplomatic gains. Since 2013, Saudi Arabia has propped up Egypt’s ailing economy by injecting at least US$12 billion into Egyptian coffers.

Tensions between the countries have grown in recent months, with Saudi Arabia angered by Egypt’s reluctance to follow its aggressive military policies in Yemen and Syria.

“At the end of the day, this is not a hugely important concession for Egypt,” said Michael Wahid Hanna, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation in New York. “But it does show that Sissi sees the Saudi relationship as a fence that needs mending.” — New York Times


Hareetz news
written by Zvi Bar'el
April 12, 2016

Egypt made an excellent deal: It receives an outstanding economic lifeline in exchange for territories that it does not even own. However, this rescue line is also a knotted rope that turns Egypt into a Saudi satellite state.

Please click HERE to read the entire article. Great piece!

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