Egyptian court allows Red Sea islands handover to Saudi Arabia

A Court in Cairo on Sunday ruled that a controversial deal to hand over two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia from Egypt can go forward.

The Court for Urgent Matters ruled against a verdict by a separate court in January that banned the handover of the islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Riyadh, state television reported on its website.

Egypt signed a border agreement with Saudi Arabia in April 2016 which would have seen the islands of Tiran and Sanafir come under Riyadh’s control.

President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi came under fierce criticism from opponents, while mass protests erupted across Egypt and legal challenges were mounted.

The Egyptian government argued that the tourist islands have been only been administered by Egypt since the 1950s upon the request of the Gulf monarchy.

On April 11, 2016 moves by the Egyptian government to hand the islands over to Saudi Arabia drew angry reaction from opposition figures.

An Egyptian cabinet announcement said that technical work on the two countries’ maritime boundary had shown that the islands of Tiran and Sanafir were within Saudi territorial waters.

The statement came while Saudi Arabia’s King Salman was in Cairo for a five-day visit.

The Saudi leader on Sunday addressed the Egyptian parliament, where he received a thunderous welcome with repeated applause and standing ovations.

Riyadh has given significant financial and diplomatic backing to Egypt since President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi – then head of the armed forces – toppled then president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

Tiran and Sanafir are at the southern entry to the Gulf of Aqaba, where both Israel and Jordan maintain important ports.

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