Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi (Reuters)
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi ratified on Saturday the Egyptian-Saudi maritime border demarcation deal that hands over the two Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia, after the parliament recent vote in favour of the agreement.
Following a series of heated parliamentary hearings earlier this month, the majority of Egyptian MPs voted in favour of the agreement by a show of hands in a general session on June 14.
Following parliament’s approval, Mohamed El-Sewedi, the head of the Egyptian parliament’s majority bloc Support Egypt, said that if Egypt had rejected the deal, “Saudi Arabia would have resorted to international arbitration, and this could have left Saudi-Egyptian relations in a bind.”
El-Sewedi said that a presidential decree issued in January 1990 stated that the two islands are part of Saudi Arabia.
However, MPs from the opposition 25/30 bloc, which opposes the deal, said that parliament's discussion and vote on the deal was "invalid," calling on El-Sisi not to ratify the deal.
Following the parliamentary approval, opponents of the deal held small protests against the deal in a number of Egyptian cities, which were quickly dispersed by police.
Some opponents of the deal were arrested in protests or from homes, with some later released on bail.
Last week, El-Sisi said in a televised speech that "every citizen has the right to express his opinion on this matter or even to reject the deal, but I assure everyone that nations are not bought or sold."
"States are run by laws and facts, not by personal interests or desires, and we want to deal with all matters according to this principle without doubting each other or making accusations of betrayal," El-Sisi said, referencing the ongoing political row between supporters and opponents of the deal.
The deal has faced a number of legal challenges by opponents and led to disputes over which courts have jurisdiction to hear such cases.
Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court has ruled last week to suspend execution of all previous court verdicts regarding the deal.
In January 2017, Egypt’s High Administrative Court upheld an earlier decision by an administrative court that voided the deal and affirmed Egyptian sovereignty over Tiran and Sanafir.
In April, the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters ruled that the country's High Administrative Court had no jurisdiction over the matter.
The border demarcation deal was signed by Egypt and Saudi Arabia in April 2016.