Egyptian parliament's majority bloc asks Sisi to ratify Red Sea island deal

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 20 Jun 2017

Mohamed El-Sewedi, head of Egypt's "Support Egypt Al-Ahram

Mohamed El-Sewedi, the head of the Egyptian parliament’s majority bloc Support Egypt, called at a press conference Tuesday on President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to ratify the controversial maritime border demarcation deal between Egypt and Saudi Arabia “as soon as possible.”

The deal, approved by parliament on 14 June, hands the two Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir, currently administered by Egypt, to Saudi Arabia.

"I hope that President El-Sisi will ratify this deal as soon as possible in order to settle the public dispute [over the deal]," El-Sewedi said.

El-Sewedi also criticised the government of Prime Minister Sherif Ismail over its handling of the deal.

"The performance of the government on this deal was very poor, and was by no means transparent, and as a result the debate in parliament degenerated into an exchange of insults and verbal clashes," said El-Sewedi, adding that "we as MPs faced a campaign of defamation."

El-Sewedi said the Support Egypt bloc came under heavy pressure not to vote in favour of the deal.

"We – the Support Egypt bloc – faced a lot of accusations and a campaign of disinformation on this deal," said El-Sewedi, adding "but we chose to approve it because all facts pointed to the two islands being Saudi."

"If we had rejected it, Saudi Arabia would have resorted to international arbitration, and this could have left Saudi-Egyptian relations in a bind," said El-Sewedi.

El-Sewedi accused the Muslim Brotherhood group of launching a disinformation campaign against the deal.

"You know that the strategy of this terrorist organisation has always been based on defaming Egypt's state institutions, including parliament," said El-Sewedi, adding that "what is much worse was that the government's poor performance and lack of transparency on the deal gave fuel to the defamation campaign."

El-Sewedi said a presidential decree issued in January 1990 stated that the two islands of Tiran and Sanafir are part of Saudi Arabia.

"The decree was issued after the UN approved this fact," said El-Sewedi, adding that "Egypt was about to hand the two islands to Saudi Arabia in 2011, but political developments in this period led to a delay in the matter."

El-Sewedi also criticised the Wafd Party for refusing to vote in favour of the Egyptian-Saudi deal.

"This is an opportunist position, because this party was in power in the year1950 when Saudi Arabia approved that the two islands of Tiran and Sanafir be put under the administration of Egypt," said El-Sewedi.

Last Thursday, the 25/30 opposition bloc in parliament, which voted against the deal, called on El-Sisi not to ratify the agreement given the High Administrative Court's ruling that the two islands are Egyptian.

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