Leak reveals Egypt 'requested Israeli permission' for islands deal
A leaked phone call between Egypt's foreign minister and a senior Israeli official has revealed Egypt had to gain Israeli approval for a controversial transfer of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.
The conversation between Sameh Shoukry and Yitzhak Molcho leaked on Friday by anti-regime TV channel Mekameleen shed light on Israel's role in the failed handover of Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia.
"The ARE [Arab Republic of Egypt] will not agree to any amendment to the agreement without the prior, formal consent of the GOI [Government of Israel]," Shoukry said in the alleged recording, in which only the Egyptian Foreign Minister's voice can be heard.
"So there is a completion of the process from the trilateral perspective for you [Israel] and us [Egypt] and they [Saudi Arabia], and then as soon as the court proceeding is finished," Shoukry said, referring to a court case over the legality of the transfer deal.
Shoukry added that he wanted to finalise issues before the legal proceedings regarding the agreement finished.
Last month, Egypt's high administrative court upheld a ruling voiding the handover of the two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia in a deal that had sparked protests in Egypt.
The government had appealed against a lower court ruling in June that found the controversial border demarcation agreement was illegal.
The agreement, announced in April, and signed during a visit by Saudi King Salman, caused public uproar and protests by Egyptians who said the islands belonged to Cairo.
The controversy has become a source of tension with Saudi Arabia – which has provided billions of dollars of aid to Egypt – reportedly including oil deliveries, direct investment, and deposits in the central bank to shore up Egypt's depleted currency reserves.
Last month, an Egyptian diplomat told The New Arab that the Egyptian and Saudi governments had to gain the approval of Israel and the United States before pushing ahead with the transfer.
The audio recording is the latest in series of embarrassing leaks from within the inner circle of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
In February 2015, Mekameleen released a recording of Sisi telling advisers to demand funds from Gulf states because "they have money like rice."