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Wednesday, 14 June 2017

House Legislative Committee signs off on Smurf Island agreement

House Legislative Committee signs off on Smurf Island agreement: The House of Representatives’ Legislative Committee voted yesterday in favor of the agreement that would hand the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir over to Saudi Arabia, Al Ahram reports. The pact, which passed with a 35-8 vote, does not violate the constitution, House speaker Ali Abdel Aal said, noting also that there is no legal reason to take it to a national referendum.

The House’s Defense and National Security Committee will begin discussing the agreement today before the it is scheduled for a plenary session vote, committee chair Kamal Amer tells Al Shorouk. The vote came one day after a fiery session on Monday that saw members of the House’s majority and opposition blocs come close to blows as they debated the viability of a House vote on the agreement in light of having been struck down by an Administrative Court verdict in January.

Tensions escalate in response: Angered by the news, dozens of protesters reportedly clashed with police forces outside the Press Syndicate yesterday, according to The Associated Press, which cited police officials saying that an unknown number of arrests had been made. Reports in the local press were conflicting, with AMAY quoting an interior ministry official denying arrests and Al Shorouk quoting another saying that detainees were released.

Abdel Aal’s instinct not to take it to a referendum is on point as apparently only 11% of Egyptians believe that Tiran and Sanafir are Saudi, according to a poll conducted by the Egyptian Centre for Public Opinion Research (Baseera). 47% believe the islands are firmly Egyptian and the remainder say they do not know. “The results reflect an apparent shift in public opinion in the past year, with more people now viewing the islands as sovereign Egyptian territory,” the paper notes. The poll was conducted on a sample of 1,164 citizens nationwide, aged 18 and above, on 11-12 June.

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