Egypt's president ratifies disputed Saudi islands pact

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi ratified on Saturday the maritime demarcation deal with Saudi Arabia to transfer two Red Sea islands to the Saudi authorities, official MENA news agency reported.

The deal, first announced in April last year, previously fuelled rare protests in Egypt and over the past week police have arrested dozens of activists following calls for more demonstrations.

The ratification followed the June 14 approval of the agreement by parliament, despite court rulings to annul the transfer.

The government says Tiran and Sanafir belong to Saudi Arabia but had been leased to Egypt in the 1950s.

Opponents of the agreement, however, insist that Tiran and Sanafir are Egyptian.

After the transfer deal was signed between Egypt's President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and Saudi's King Salman in April 2016, several protests erupted in defense of the land.

Egypt's lawmakers were divided over the maritime demarcation deal, signed a year ago during a rare visit of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to Egypt, yet the majority of members voted for it. However, they were placed under the administration of Egypt in 1949 in the wake of Arab-Israeli tensions.

Sisi's government past year announced the maritime agreement with Saudi Arabia, an ally which has given billions of dollars of aid to Egypt.

  • Joanne Flowers