Opposition 25/30 bloc MP Haitham El-Hariri (Photo: Al-Ahram)
The 25/30 opposition bloc in Egypt’s parliament called on President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi not to ratify the government’s deal to transfer sovereignty over the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanfir to Saudi Arabia, which was approved by parliament on Wednesday.
In an official statement on Thursday evening, the 25-30 bloc said that the president should preserve "what is left of the rule of law" by not ratifying the deal, given judicial rulings as well as the recent recommendation by the Supreme Constitutional Court’s office of Commissioners on the issue.
On Wednesday, in a general session, Egypt’s parliament approved the deal in a majority vote by show of hands after three days of heated debates and hearings from experts in the legislative and constitutional committee.
The 25/30 bloc, which comprises more than two dozen MPs, said around 100 MPs out of a total of 596 voted against the agreement.
The parliament's majority bloc Support Egypt overwhelmingly voted to approve the deal.
The government has maintained that the islands have always belonged to Saudi Arabia, and were only placed under Egypt's control because Riyadh asked Cairo to protect them in 1950.
On Sunday, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told MPs that the government approved the deal only after a national committee, which has worked on the issue for six years, reached the conclusion that there was no legal foundation for Egypt's possession of the islands.
The parliamentary bloc explained in its statement that it is weighing whether to resign from parliament in protest against the deal, as many of its supporters have demanded, or to continue fighting in the legislative to stop the transfer of the islands.
The opposition bloc had argued during the debates that numerous maps and documents show that the two islands never belonged to Saudi Arabia, and that parliament should not discuss or vote on the deal without a ruling from the Supreme Constitutional Court on legal jurisdiction disputes.
In January 2017, the High Administrative Court ruled that the deal was null and void. However, in April 2017, the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters followed with a ruling that administrative courts have no jurisdiction over issues relating to national borders.
On Thursday, the Commissioners office at the Supreme Constitutional Court – which prepares non-binding ruling recommendations on cases under consideration by the court's panel – issued a report recommending that the court reject a government case charging that recent administrative court decisions upholding Egyptian sovereignty over the islands violated previous rulings by the Supreme Constitutional Court.
The speaker of parliament Ali Abdel-Aal maintained that the house proceedings were democratic and in keeping with the country's constitution.