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Egypt's parliament to review Red Sea island deal with Saudi Arabia

A number of MPs have requested the government provide parliament with all documents related to a new maritime border deal handing over two Red Sea islands to the Gulf nation

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 12 Apr 2016
A general view shows members of the Egyptian parliament attending the opening session at the main headquarters of Parliament in Cairo, Egypt, January 10, 2016 (Reuters)
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Egypt's parliament – the House of Representatives – is soon expected to review a new technical deal aimed at drawing the maritime borders between Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

The deal, which leaves the two Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir within the regional waters of Saudi Arabia, has left MPs divided.

While some MPs agree that the two islands are historically part of Saudi Arabia's regional waters, others say the deal must be put to a public referendum.

On Monday, a number of MPs said the new Egypt-Saudi deal must be presented to parliament "very soon."

"[The deal] must also be corroborated with all the historical documents and maps showing that the two Islands are in fact part of Saudi territory," said MP Tarek El-Khouli.

El-Khouli, in an urgent statement to prime minister Sherif Ismail, said "it will be highly embarrassing for parliament to approve a deal without having all the complete and adequate information about it."

"We must get all the reports made by the committees that demarcated the new maritime borders between Egypt and Saudi Arabia," he said.

El-Khouli said Article 151 of the new constitution states that international agreements signed by the president of the republic must be ratified by parliament in order to be valid and effective.

MP Anwar El-Sadat also told reporters that a special committee must be formed by parliament to review the new deal between Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

"This committee must obtain all the necessary documents related to Egypt's eastern borders since 1906 and the letters exchanged between Egypt and Saudi Arabia on the two islands since 1990," said El-Sadat.

Meanwhile, MPs and other leading officials affiliated with the Egyptian Social Democratic Party said they would collect signatures from ordinary citizens calling for rejecting the new deal with Saudi Arabia.

In an official statement, the party said the two Red Sea islands have been part of Egypt's regional waters since 1800, or one year after French leader Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Egypt.

"The two islands have been on all the maps of Egypt since that date," the party said in a statement.

The statement also argued that Article 151 of the constitution is clear that all international agreements related to "sovereignty issues" must be put to a public referendum.

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