Sisi pledges 'no interference' on Red Sea islands ruling

Sisi pledges 'no interference' on Red Sea islands ruling
2 min read
27 April, 2017
The Egyptian President's plans to transfer the two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia has resulted in public and judicial uproar in the country, and it's not dying down.
Sisi initially cut the Sanafir, Tiran deal with Saudi King Salman in April 2016 [Getty]

Egyptian President Adel Fattah al-Sisi said on Wednesday that he did not plan to intervene in any decision taken by the country's parliament or courts regarding a controversial plan to transfer the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia. 

A deal to hand over the islands was signed during in April 2016 during a visit by Saudi King Salman to Egypt during which the Kingdom also made considerable aid pledges to Cairo. 

Popular backlash from the deal has seen Sisi accused of "selling" the strategic islands leading to street protests. 

Lawyers opposed to the measure have also launched a legal battle. In June last year, an administrative court ruled against the transfer.

This ruling was consequently upheld in January by the country's top administrative court. 

However, a consequent court ruling has declared that of the administrative court invalid.

Speaking live on television on Wednesday during a conference in the Suez canal city of Ismailiya, Sisi said that he has fulfilled "my part" and the decision now lay "in the parliament and with the judiciary. We won't interfere".

"From the start, we told our (Saudi) brothers that we will go through procedures, but that we will not interfere with the technical side and that the ratification will be done according to legal and constitutional rules," Sisi continued.

Sisi has previously insisted that Tiran and Sanafir belong to Saudi Arabia, but were leased to Egypt in the 1950s. 

In the next stage of proceedings, lawyers opposed to the deal, and the State Lawsuits Authority, which backs Sisi, will present their arguments to the country's constitutional court. The Egyptian government has also sent the terms of the deal to the country's parliament. 

Saudi Arabia has been a main financial backer of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi since the former army chief toppled his Islamist predecessor in 2013.

However, the relationship has not been without hiccups.

In November, Riyadh notably suspended fuel aid to Cairo worth billions following a diplomatic dispute, partly in protest to Sisi's implicit expression of support for the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad in a UN vote. 

In one development on Wednesday a group of some 30 Egyptian MPs announced they had withdrawn from the House of Representatives in protest of the decision of the Egyptian government to present the case to parliament, and rejection of the decision of the administrative court - dynamics they view as an attempt by Sisi to wrangle and manipulate a deal suitable to his interests.