ElBaradei calls for fact-finding committee on Red Sea islands

Ahram Online , Tuesday 19 Apr 2016

Former vice president calls for bilateral legal committee to investigate Tiran and Sanafir

Mohamed ElBaradei (Reuters)

Former vice-president Mohamed ElBaradei called on Tuesday for an independent fact-finding committee to examine the legal status of the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir, which the Egyptian government says belong to Saudi Arabia.

In a series of posts on his official Twitter account, the Nobel laureate and former vice president stated that the relationship between the Egyptian and Saudi people is more important than "a legal dispute" caused by different explanations of "historical events" and "legal documents."

"Aside from politics and emotions, the two countries can agree to form an independent neutral fact-finding committee of legal experts to reach a legal opinion," wrote ElBaradei in Arabic, adding that there were past experiences and alternatives that could solve the current controversy.

Last week, the Egyptian government signed an agreement with Saudi Arabia to redraw maritime borders so that the islands of Tiran and Sanafir would fall within Saudi territorial waters.

The decision created controversy and anger in Egypt, with some public figures insisting that the islands are in fact Egyptian territory.

The government has released several statements supporting its position, and President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi himself addressed the issue in a televised speech.

ElBaradei found himself part of the controversy when the Egyptian government cited his use of the word "Egyptian occupation" to describe the modern situation of the islands, in a 1982 article he wrote for a legal journal. A statement by a government body used the term to support its contention that the islands belong to Saudi Arabia.

ElBaradei responded with a denial that he supported that view, writing on Twitter that his use of the word “occupation” simply denoted possession and control.

“I didn’t go into the issue of ownership, which is settled according to facts, historical documents and resorting to international law,” ElBaradei wrote.
The Egyptian-Saudi border agreement is still pending ratification by Egypt's House of Representatives.

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