Egypt President won't interfere in Saudi isle deal

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said he will not interfere in the deal to hand over the islands. PHOTO: AFP

CAIRO • Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has said he will not interfere in any decision the courts or Parliament take on a controversial move to transfer two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.

"I fulfilled my part, and it is now in the Parliament and with the judiciary. We won't interfere," he said live on television on Wednesday during a conference in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia.

The deal to hand over the islands, signed during an April 2016 visit by Saudi King Salman during which Riyadh showered Egypt with aid, provoked accusations in Egypt that Cairo had "sold" the strategic islands.

The accord has sparked street protests and a legal battle between the government, which insists along with Mr Sisi that the islands are Saudi, and lawyers opposed to the measure.

"From the start, we told our (Saudi) brothers that we will go through procedures, but that we will not interfere with the technical side, and that the ratification will be done according to legal and constitutional rules," Mr Sisi said on Wednesday.

Cairo said the two islands - Tiran and Sanafir - were Saudi territory to start with, but had been leased to Egypt in the 1950s, and Mr Sisi has insisted publicly that the islands are Saudi.

The State Lawsuits Authority, the government's legal representative, has been battling in courts with lawyers opposed to the deal, which may eventually reach the Supreme Constitutional Court, the nation's highest judicial body. The deal is also now being deliberated by Parliament's Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 29, 2017, with the headline Egypt President won't interfere in Saudi isle deal. Subscribe