Treaty signing ignites SM storm over disputed islands
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz (C-L) walks with Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during a welcoming ceremony upon al-Sisi's arrival to attend the Summit of South American-Arab Countries, in Riyadh - REUTERS

CAIRO: Egypt and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement per which Cairo announced that two disputed islands in Red Sea’s Tiran Strait at the entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba are Saudi territory, igniting public anger against the deal and criticism against the government.

Lawyer Khaled Ali filed Sunday a lawsuit before the State’s Council against the government over signing the deal of maritime demarcation with Saudi Arabia, al- Bedaiah newspaper reported.

Ali said that there is no legal basis for Saudi sovernights of the islands, adding in a statement published on his Facebook page that there are many documents proves that the islands are Egyptian territory.

Facebook users created Sunday an event calling the Egyptian to take to streets against the decision of the two islands on April 15. The Egypt Socialist Popular Alliance Party called for public protest against the decision.

Border Deal

Egypt signed an agreement re-defining the maritime borders with Saudi Arabia, per which Saudi Arabia has sovereignty over the previously disputed Tiran and Sanafir Islands, Egypt’s Cabinet announced Saturday evening per a presidency decree.

On July 30, 2015, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and Saudi Defense Minister Prince Mohamed bin Salman agreed on defining the maritime boundaries, according to a statement by the Egyptian Presidency.

The deal was reached during Egyptian Minister of International Cooperation Sahr Nasr’s visit to Riyadh in the fifth meeting of the Egyptian- Saudi Coordination Council (ESCC) on March 22. The meeting tackled the issue of drawing maritime boundaries in the Red Sea, al-Hayat newspaper reported.

“The ministry is committed to any agreement signed by the state with any other country, including the re-demarcation of the border between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and the return of the islands of Tiran and Sanafir to the Kingdom,” Egyptian Minister of Environment Khaled Fahmy told Youm7 Sunday. He added that the decision of giving Saudi Arabia the islands is “a sovereign” and none can interfere into it.

Egyptian Cabinet spokesperson Hossam Gawish said in a statement that late King Abdul Aziz Al Saud has asked in 1950 that Egypt administers the islands to protect them against Israeli occupation.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said in remarks to the media editors-in chief in Cairo Sunday that the two islands were negotiated in the Camp David Accord of 1979, saying that the lands are Saudi territories.

“After 1967 and the occupation (Israeli one-year occupation), Israel rejected to separate the islands from the Convention…so, they were included in Camp David Deal; and then Egypt and Saudi Arabia set up a committee to restore the islands, but the events experienced by the region after September 11 (attacks) and the Arab World’s concern led to the delay in demarcating maritime borders,” Youm7 quoted Al-Jubeir as saying.

The Cabinet statement indicated that a committee that was formed six years ago based on a presidential decree in 1990 to define the Egyptian-Saudi maritime boundaries, noting that both countries have notified the United Nations about redrawing the boundaries.

In 1957, both sides claimed their sovereignty over the islands, according to a study by the International Boundaries Research Unit.

“Egypt informed the U.N. Security Council that the two islands had been Egyptian territory since the delimitation of the frontier between Egypt and the Ottoman Empire in 1906. In 1957, Saudi Arabia asserted its sovereignty in notes to diplomatic missions in Jiddah, and in a subsequent memorandum to the United Nations,” the study says.

However, Egyptian advisory for the international border issues Haidi Farouk said that all documents and maps proved that the two islands are “fully Egyptian.”

Farouq added in a Sunday phone call to Sabah On talk show that she had maps that showed the Islands part of Egyptian territory; some of them date back to 1882 Palmer mission in Sinai, and that she handed them over to the Egyptian authorities. She continued that there were another original copies that had been “stolen” from the Cairo’s Egyptian Scientific Complex after it was torched in the aftermath of the January 25 Revolution in 2011.

Social media users posted a map of Egypt during the era of Ismail Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt and Sudan from 1863 to 1879, from the archive of Alexandria Library.

the red circile mars the area where the two islands locate; the map from the Alexandria librart archive

The red circle marks the area where the two islands are located- from the archive of the Library of Alexandria

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