Egyptian MP Ibrahim Hegazy submitted on Thursday a letter to parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal urging him not to allow a parliament vote on a government deal to transfer two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, given the recent court verdict affirming Egyptian sovereignty over the islands.
On Monday, Egypt’s High Administrative Court rejected an appeal by the government against a June 2016 decision by a lower administrative court that voided the April 2016 Egyptian-Saudi maritime demarcation deal.
The deal between Cairo and Riyadh, signed in April 2016, would place the two islands in the Gulf of Aqaba under Saudi Arabian sovereignty.
Shortly following the Monday court verdict, parliament speaker Abdel-Aal said in a TV interview that parliament will have final say on the agreement despite the ruling.
The cabinet had approved the agreement and submitted it to parliament for a vote on 1 January, two weeks before the date set by the High Adminstrative Court for a ruling.
“In line with Article 151 [of the constitution] and with full respect for the Egyptian judiciary, I insist that it is parliament that still has the final say on international agreements, including the maritime border demarcation agreement with Saudi Arabia,” Abdel-Aal stated.
However, MP Hegazy cited the same article in his letter to Abdel-Aal as grounds for not voting on the deal, saying that the deal should have been made by the president, not the cabinet as such deals are not in its jurisdiction.
According to Egypt’s State Information Service website, Article 151 of the constitution stipulates that “the president of the republic represents the state in foreign relations and concludes treaties and ratifies them after the approval of the House of Representatives. In all cases, no treaty may be concluded which is contrary to the provisions of the Constitution or which leads to concession of state territories.”
The government has argued that the Red Sea islands are originally Saudi, and therefore the deal does not constitute a “concession of state territories.”
The deal has sparked widespread public outcry in the country. A number of street protests took place after the deal was announced in April. Dozens of protesters were arrested and tried for demonstrating against the deal without permission; most have been since released after paying hefty fines.
The government has also appealed the administrative court’s June decision to void the deal in front of the Supreme Constitutional Court, which is yet to decide on whether it will hear the case.