Egypt’s top court has dismissed all outstanding legal challenges to a controversial deal according to which Cairo cedes sovereignty of two of its Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, Egypt’s top benefactor, a day before a visit by Saudi’s MBS to the African country.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi announced in April 2016 that the two islands of Tiran and Sanafir fell within the territorial waters of Saudi Arabia as stipulated in a border accord signed between Cairo and Riyadh earlier that month, triggering legal action to block the deal and unprecedented mass demonstrations.
Protesters have accused the Egyptian president of surrendering Egyptian territory in return for Saudi money amid reports that Cairo was receiving 20 billion dollars in aid from Riyadh to relinquish sovereignty of the uninhabited islands.
The Supreme Court, however, on Saturday ruled that no other court had jurisdiction over the issue, blocking two opposing verdicts, one by the Supreme Administrative Court, which was against transferring of the islands to Saudis, the other by the Court of Urgent Matters, which looked to annul 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 that approving the accord was down to Egypt’s legislative body.
MBS signed the deal on behalf of Saudi Arabia before becoming crown prince. The young Saudi prince is due to arrive in Egypt for a three-day visit on Sunday.
Egypt’s parliament backed the deal in June last year, and Sisi ratified it one week later.