Saudi island agreement to go before Egypt's parliament 'soon'

Gamal Essam El-Din , Sunday 17 Apr 2016

The agreement to give two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia will 'soon' be reviewed by parliament; MP Nadia Henry asks for national referendum, while others say step is not necessary

Egyptian parliament (Reuters)
Egyptian parliament (Reuters)

The speaker of Egypt's parliament, Ali Abdel-Al, said Sunday that the "border demarcation agreement" signed between Egypt and Saudi Arabia on 8 April will be presented to parliament "soon" for legal and constitutional review and final ratification should MPs vote in favour.

Abdel-Al's announcement came in response to a question raised by MP Nadia Henry. 

Henry, in a word before parliament on Sunday, launched a scathing attack against the government, accusing it of keeping parliament "in the dark" about the deal in which Egypt agreed to give Saudi Arabia two Red Sea islands.

"The agreement caused a lot of anger on the Egyptian street and made people slam parliament for being the last to know about it," said Henry.

The agreement, signed during a five-day visit by Saudi King Salman Bin Abdel-Aziz, has stirred up a lot of controversy as it states that the islands of Tiran and Sanafir – long believed to be part of Egypt – are rightfully Saudi.

Henry, commenting on the government's policy statement delivered before parliament on 27 March, accused the government of Prime Minister Sherif Ismail of showing "no respect" for the House of Representatives as the deal was made "without informing parliament or making it part of his policy statement."

She added that "we, the people and parliament, were all surprised by the Saudi-Egyptian agreement… and as a result some people resorted to protesting on the street to vent their anger over this disrespect."

Henry insisted that "while the government is presenting its programme to seek parliament's confidence, it has shown no confidence in the country's parliament and people."

"I am sorry to say that this government does not take parliament as a partner in drafting the country's policies."

She said that although the party she is affiliated with – the Free Egyptians Party – announced it would vote for the government, "I cannot prevent myself from expressing my deep worry about the policies of this government… as it does not trust us and we as MPs should not trust it."

Henry said her personal view is that the return of the two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia must be put to a national referendum.

"This is important to calm the street and contain anger, especially as people no longer trust us," said Henry.

In response, Abdel-Al said that "the government has the right to sign and announce border demarcation agreements at any time, and parliament only has the right to discuss these agreements and have the final say on them."

Leading MPs affiliated with the Free Egyptians Party said after a meeting with President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi on Wednesday that "the agreement on the two Red Sea islands does not need a public referendum."

Many MPs said that "border demarcation agreements" do not fall under Article 151 of the constitution, which stipulates that "sovereignty agreements" must be put to a national plebiscite.

Short link: