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Thursday, 15 June 2017

House votes in favor of Tiran and Sanafir handover agreement

House votes in favour of handing Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi: The House of Representatives voted after a heated and contentious plenary session yesterday in favor of an agreement that would transfer sovereignty over the Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia, Al Masry Al Youm says. This follows swift approval of the treaty by the House Defense and National Security Committee. The haste with which the treaty moved through the House enraged longtime opponents of the pact, according to Al Shorouk.

Supporters defend their decision: Members of the Support Egypt Coalition (the House majority bloc), MPs from the Salafist Nour Party and the liberal Free Egyptians Party all backed the agreement, basing their decision on a 1990 presidential decree that had defined Egypt’s maritime borders and excluded the two islands. That was the single piece of official evidence presented to back Saudi’s claim to sovereignty, they said. Majority bloc leader Mohamed Elsewedy defended the agreement’s viability, maintaining that the islands are in fact Saudi territory and arguing that the Armed Forces would have intervened if it had been in any way detrimental to national security or infringed on Egyptian sovereignty. Elsewedy noted that MPs chose to pass the agreement despite expectations of a public backlash.

It may all come down to the Supreme Constitutional Court: The vote, which ignored a verdict by the Administrative Court nullifying the treaty, could be moot if the Supreme Constitutional Court rules against the government. The State Commissioners Body of the Supreme Constitutional Court (as distinct from the body of the same name that is part of the administrative court system) issued a report contesting the government’s case that sovereign affairs are not the purview of the Administrative Court, stating that the argument does not apply in the case of the two islands. The Constitutional Court is set to begin looking into the case on 30 July, according to AMAY.

Calls for protest caused authorities to beef up security in Downtown Cairo yesterday. Eight people were reportedly arrested after clashes with police outside the Press Syndicate, according to Al Shorouk. The Egyptian Social Democratic Party also announced a sit-in at their headquarters to protest the House’s vote, while others called for a gathering in Tahrir Square. Bloomberg notes that the agreement “had triggered the largest protests against [President Abdel Fattah] El-Sisi since he took office in 2014” back when news of it first surfaced in 2016. AMAY has a timeline and infografic here detailing the story of this contentious agreement.

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