Public discontent challenges government’s maritime border demarcation

Adham Youssef
3 Min Read

Several Egyptian political parties have criticised Saudi Arabia and Egypt’s decision to demarcate new maritime borders, which has transferred sovereign control the Red Sea islands Sanafir and Tiran to Saudi Arabia.

The office of the Egyptian presidency announced that President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi will meet with “representatives of the country” where it is expected he will discuss the territorial demarcation.

Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz concluded his five-day visit to Egypt On Monday. King Salman’s first official visit since ascending to the Saudi throne was seen as a symbolic overture by members of the Egyptian media to solidify Egyptian-Saudi relations.

Although it is not clear whether the decision has been finalised, Egypt’s cabinet announced in an official statement that Sanafir and Tiran islands are now included within Saudi maritime borders after the technical demarcation committee concluded its redrawing.

Hamdeen Sabahy, Nasserist politician and former presidential candidate, said the islands are a part of the Egyptian state, adding in a social media post that it is not the president’s right to “give away” the two islands.

The leftist politician added that “this forfeiture is void unless the whole parliament agrees”. He called upon the president to withdraw the agreement to avoid public unrest and diplomatic tension with Saudi Arabia.

In an official statement, the Free Egyptians Party (FEP) announced that the party will wait to comment on the agreement until it receives the technical demarcation committee’s report. If disagreement arises, FEP members stated that the issue can be settled in international court.

The FEP stated that the agreement should be reviewed by the parliament.

The Egyptian Social Democratic Party called the agreement “a business deal, where the government receives monetary value for giving away the islands”.

“There is an increasing sense of anger in popular circles as this decision was taken without consent from state institutions or the Egyptian society, and was done without any transparency,” the party said in the statement.

Further, prominent rights lawyer Khaled Ali submitted a lawsuit to the State Council on Sunday, petitioning the court to return the Red Sea islands to Egyptian sovereign control. The first court session will take place on 17 May.

Ali, along with lawyers Tarek Al-Awady and Malek Adly, is seeking public support for the lawsuit and is asking members of the public to join the case by investing the lawyers with power of attorney or presenting documentation to verify ownership of the two islands.

On Sunday evening, security forces arrested two men in the Damanhour governorate for protesting against the decision in Al-Sa’a square. The men held banners that said, “Egypt is not for sale”. The men were sent to Damanhour prosecution Monday morning.

Additional reporting by Menan Khater and Sarah Al-Shiekh

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