Egyptian possession of Red Sea islands did not equal sovereignty, explains law expert Moufid Shehab

Ahram Online , Wednesday 13 Apr 2016

The former minister of state for legal affairs and parliamentary councils says Saudi rights over Tiran and Sanafir are supported by all the facts

Moufid Shehab
Moufid Shehab (Photo: Al-Ahram)

International law expert Moufid Shehab explained on Wednesday that all legal, geographic and historical records prove that despite the fact that Egypt agreed at some point in history to a Saudi request to oversee and protect the Islands of Tiran and Sanafir, the islands remained all along under Saudi sovereignty.

During a meeting between President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and public figures on Wednesday, Shehab said that the lengthy period of Egyptian guardianship over the two islands gave some people the wrong impression that the Islands were Egyptian, Al-Ahram Arabic news website reported.

Shehab was a member of the Egyptian legal team that negotiated for several years with Israel for the return of Taba, Sinai February in 1989. He also served as minister of state for legal affairs and parliamentary councils during the period of 2004-2011 under the tenure of ousted president Hosni Mubarak.

Possession guarantees ownership under private law but not under international law, Shehab explained.

Shehab said, for example, Egyptian control over the Gaza strip (from 1948-1967) did not mean that Gaza could fall under Egyptian sovereignty.

The former minister said he found through his own legal review of the case that the joint Saudi-Egyptian committee that negotiated the status of Tiran and Sanafir over the last six years followed the same methodology that the Egyptian team used during the negotiations between Egypt and Israel over the then-disputed Taba.

Shehab said the agreement would go into effect after the two sides exchange ratified documents, not just after the Egyptian parliament votes for ratification.

Shehab said that while Article 151 of the constitution prohibits the signing of any deals that forfeit national territory and mandates referendums in specific cases involving territorial sovereignty, it does not, however, stipulate that a referendum is required for the redrawing of maritime borders, as is the case in the recent Egyptian-Saudi agreement.

He added that countries seek international arbitration in cases where disputes over sovereignty exist, though no such dispute exists between the Egyptian and Saudi sides.

Shehab concluded that Egypt and Saudi Arabia have finalised the redrawing of their maritime borders based on documents Egypt had previously submitted to the United Nations.

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