Egyptian parliament speaker Abdel-Aal said in his first-ever TV interview on Monday that it is parliament that will have the final say on the Red Sea island agreement with Saudi Arabia, despite the recent court ruling voiding the deal.
“I insist that it is parliament that will finally decide whether this agreement goes in line with the constitution and whether Egypt would be ceding part of its land,” Abdel-Aal told the DMC TV channel on Monday evening.
Abdel-Aal's interview came hours after Egypt's High Administrative Court ruled that the two Red Sea islands should remain in Egyptian hands and should not be transferred to Saudi Arabia.
The maritime border demarcation agreement, which would relinquish control of the two Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia, was signed by the governments of the two countries during a visit by Saudi King Salman to Cairo on 8 April.
Abdel-Aal explained that international agreements signed by the president of the republic should be discussed and voted on by parliament in accordance with Article 151 of the constitution.
“In line with article 151 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,” said Abdel-Aal.
According to Abdel-Aal, international agreements should pass through five stages.
“They have first to be negotiated and signed by the government, referred to parliament for discussion and voting, ratified by the president of the republic and finally published in the official gazette,” said Abdel-Aal, adding that these stages “are basic and necessary for any international agreement to be put into effect.”
“I also want to point out that it is parliament that will decide whether such an agreement goes in line with the constitution, whether Egypt would be ceding part of its land, and whether it should be put to a public referendum,” said Abdel-Aal.
“Article 151 of the constitution is clear in that it allows the president to sign international agreements that will be officially ratified only after being approved by the House of Representatives.”
“So, as you see, this is a basic role that Egypt’s parliament must exercise for any international agreement to become effective and binding for all state authorities,” said Abdel-Aal.
However, Abdel-Aal also said that the final ruling issued by the High Administrative Court on Monday will be studied and reviewed by parliament when the agreement comes up for debate in parliamentary committees.
“From a personal point of view, I have full confidence in the state authorities that negotiated and signed this agreement, and this confidence stems from the fact that those who fought in wars never accept ceding part of their land in any way,” said Abdel-Aal.
Abdel-Aal explained that when the Egyptian-Saudi agreement comes up for debate in parliament, MPs will be keen to listen to all different points of view.
“We will listen to all institutions and individuals who voiced different opinions on this agreement, not to mention that parliamentary hearing sessions will be held to allow all to express their viewpoints and present their documents in a fruitful dialogue,” said Abdel-Aal.
Abdel-Aal stressed that “given that the Egyptian-Saudi deal has become a matter of public opinion, parliament will be sure to summon all kinds of experts and international law specialists to give their opinions.”
Abdel-Aal also said he does not fear a showdown between parliament and the judiciary.
“The constitution has indicated in clear-cut terms the roles of each authority and what should be done to settle disagreements that might arise among them – that is taking the issue to the Supreme Constitutional Court to give a final and binding judgment,” said Abdel-Aal.
Abdel-Aal concluded by saying he is not sure when and for how long parliament will discuss the Egyptian-Saudi deal.
“All I can say is that parliament might take one month, two months, three months or even an entire legislative season until the discussion of the agreement is finalised and put to a final vote, and we will be keen on doing this without putting any political considerations into account,” said Abdel-Aal.
Egypt's law-makers are still divided over whether the agreement should be reviewed by parliament.
While some parliamentarians insist that the House of Representatives has the final say over the matter, others welcomed the High Administrative Court’s verdict on Monday.
The opposition 25/30 bloc said in a statement after the court ruling that the parliament no longer has the right to discuss the controversial maritime re-demarcation deal, and called on state institutions to respect the court ruling.
The bloc described today's court ruling as “a death sentence” that ended the deal forever.