Egypt's culture ministry to publish book that shows Tiran and Sanafir are Saudi

Ahram Online , Monday 15 Aug 2016

The book, which was published recently by the Geographic Society and will be reissued by the ministry, contains maps and other documents supporting the Saudi claim

Helmy El-Namnam
Egypt's Minister of Culture Helmy El-Namnam (Photo: Al Ahram)

Minister of Culture Helmy El-Namnam has said that his ministry is planning to release a book that comprises maps and documents showing that the islands of Tiran and Sanafir in the Red Sea fall within Saudi waters, Al-Ahram Arabic website reported.

In April the Egyptian government made a controversial decision to recognise the two islands, currently under Egyptain control, as belonging to Saudi Arabia. The government has said that the islands have always been under Saudi Arabian sovereignty and were only being administered by Egypt temporarily.

The minister's statement on the book release was later clarified by Sayed El-Husseiny, head of the Geographic Society, who told Al-Ahram Arabic that the society had already released the aforementioned book, titled The Political Geography of the Aqaba Gulf and Tiran and Sanafir Islands, and co-authored by El-Husseiny and Fathy Abo-Eyana, a geography professor at Alexandria University.

“The culture minister got hold of the book and admired it, and so decided to publish another edition for the public,” El-Husseiny told Mennatallah El-Abyad of Al-Ahram Arabic.

El-Namnam originally announced the book would be published in a lecture titled “On Tiran and Sanafir and International Law” held at the Supreme Council of Culture on 10 August.

El-Namnam stated that the book by the Geographic Society had been the result of a previous talk also held at the council's premises which discussed the two islands.

“The point of view that holds that both islands are Egyptian must be respected because it is out of love for one’s country,” added El-Namnam at the lecture.

“The book recently published by the geographic society contains documents and historical maps that prove the island’s belong to Saudi Arabia, and it was not sponsored be either the culture ministry or any other entity,” El-Husseiny told El-Abyad.

The culture ministry had released two statements, the first stating “a book will be released by the Geographic Society supported by the Supreme Council of Culture,” which stirred some confusion.

A second statement was released by the ministry after this referring to a book “that already exists, released by the Geographic Society, containing maps and documents related to the islands' case.”

In April, the Egyptian cabinet released a statement announcing that the joint Egyptian-Saudi technical maritime border drawing process had determined that the islands of Tiran and Sanafir in the Red Sea fall within Saudi waters.

The statement added that the determination that the two islands fall within Saudi regional waters was the culmination of a six-year process of studies and eleven rounds of negotiations between the two sides.

The maritime border demarcation agreement had come as part of a visit made by King Salman Bin Abdel-Aziz of Saudi Arabia to Egypt in April, during which the two countries signed a number of political and economic agreements.

The decision quickly sparked a debate, and many Egyptians opposed the Egyptian-Saudi islands deal, sharing what they claimed to be evidence to the contrary such as maps, documents and videos of speeches asserting that they are Egyptian territory.

Demonstrations took place in Cairo and other govenrorates against the deal, during which dozens of people, including activists, lawyers and journalists, were arrested.

Moreover, Khaled Ali and a number of other lawyers filed a lawsuit with Egypt's Administrative Court at the State Council arguing that Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail and Speaker of Parliament Ali Abdel Al had wrongfully waived Egyptian sovereignty rights over the two islands.

In June, the Administrative Court ruled that the Saudi-Egyptian agreement was void, thus putting the two islands under Egyptian sovereignty.

The decision was followed by an appeal by Egypt's State Lawsuits Authority – the body representing the government in legal cases – which has yet to be ruled on.

The deal, should it go ahead, will be presented to the House of Representatives to be discussed and ratified. 

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