An Egyptian court has issued a final ruling rejecting a controversial government plan to transfer two uninhabited Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, prompting cheers in the Cairo courtroom but potentially deepening tensions with the country’s erstwhile financial backer.
Celebrations erupted as the judge gave the verdict confirming Egyptian sovereignty over Tiran and Sanafir, saying the government had failed to provide evidence that the islands were Saudi.
The deal to transfer the islands, announced in April, caused public uproar and protests by Egyptians, who believe Tiran and Sanafir belong to their country. It also fed into discontent over the country’s economic crisis.
Ali Ayoub, who helped bring the original case against the government, responded with jubilation to Monday’s ruling. “The ruling is final and cannot be subject to appeal, [even] the parliament doesn’t have the right to discuss this agreement, because it’s been made null and void by a court ruling,” he said, surrounded by supporters chanting: “Egyptian, Egyptian, Egyptian.”
Tiran and Sanafir are situated in the narrow entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba leading to Jordan and Israel. Saudi and Egyptian officials say they belong to Saudi Arabia and have been under Egyptian control only because Riyadh asked Cairo in 1950 to protect them.
The controversy over the islands has become a source of tension with Saudi Arabia, which has provided Egypt with billions of dollars of aid but recently halted fuel shipments as relations deteriorated, The Guardian reported.
Monday’s blow to the government was also a moment of national pride for many of those reacting to the verdict.