Top Egyptian court waives legal challenges to Red Sea islands transfer


Egypt’s top court dismissed all outstanding legal challenges to a deal transferring two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, a day before a visit by its crown prince.

The plan to cede the islands to Riyadh, an ally which has given billions of dollars in aid to Egypt, was announced in 2016 and became mired in political protest and legal action.

The Supreme Court ruled no other court had jurisdiction over the matter, blocking two opposing verdicts – one by the Supreme Administrative Court, against ceding control of the islands of Tiran and Sanafir and the other by the Court of Urgent Matters, which looked to void that decision.
“The signature of the representative of the Egyptian state on the maritime borders agreement between the governments of Egypt and Saudi Arabia is undoubtedly an act of sovereignty,” the Supreme Court said in a statement, adding approving the deal was down to Egypt’s legislative body.

Prince Mohamed signed the deal on behalf of the Kingdom before becoming crown prince.

Egypt’s parliament backed the deal in June and Sisi ratified it a week later.

Opponents say Egypt’s sovereignty over the islands dates back to 1906, before Saudi Arabia was founded.

Saudi and Egyptian officials say the islands belong to the kingdom and were only under Egyptian control because Riyad asked Cairo to protect them in 1950.

Saudi Arabia supported Sisi since he toppled President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013. Legal wrangling over the Red Sea deal was a source of tension between the two countries.

Opposition to the deal has been a problem for Sisi, sparking the only major street protests since he came to power in 2014 and being a rallying point for opposition figures marginalised during his rule.

Sisi stands for re-election this month in a vote he is almost guaranteed to win after all the serious challengers dropped out, including a rights lawyer who successfully challenged the islands deal in court.