The settling of maritime borders between Egypt and Saudi Arabia has sparked ire, leading to debates between politicians and social media users over the rightful ownership of the islands of Sanafir and Tiran.
Egypt’s cabinet announced in an official statement Saturday that Sanafir and Tiran would now officially be included within the Saudi maritime borders.
After nearly six years of discussions and negotiations between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the decision finally came to a close, according to the cabinet statement. The decision also comes during the first official visit by Saudi King Salman Bin Abdel Aziz Al-Saud.
Although the cabinet announced that the decision came after at least 10 rounds of discussions and technical examinations over the border lines, concerns abounded among politicians, security experts, parliamentarians, and media personnel regarding the constitutionality of the decision.
Critics said the agreement was unconstitutional as it did not refer to parliament for a referendum, adding that historically the islands have belonged to Egypt.
Using a hashtag that translated to “the land was sold”, reactions to the historic decision also pointed towards a possible selling of the land by Egypt in return for Saudi investments.
This possibility was juxtaposed with the accusations levelled against the ousted Muslim Brotherhood regime, which was accused of exchanging intelligence information with countries such as Qatar, Turkey in return for funds.
Parliament member Haitham El-Hariri criticised the decision. He referred to article number 151 of the 2014 Egyptian Constitution, which urges for the ratification of parliament on such decisions before proceeding with them, as well as a referendum.
“It is impossible to give up Egyptian land regardless of the financial outcome, especially given that those lands are a valuable tourist asset,” El-Hariri said.
El-Hariri proposed a request to the prime minister to send the relevant documents at the ministries of defence and foreign affairs regarding ownership of those lands to parliament for review.
Meanwhile, the Socialist Popular Alliance Party (SPAP) strongly condemned the decision in an official statement on Sunday, and calls on national political figures to react against the decision.
The party expressed concern towards what they described as an apathetic move in giving up islands of strategic value in return for a set of subsidies.
“The decision seems to be a trade deal between the two countries which degrades the value of Egyptian land,” the statement read. “On the other hand we strongly condemn the discreet settings of the negotiations process and deliberately hiding relevant information from the public.”
Similarly, prominent rights lawyer and 2012 presidential candidate Khaled Ali urged for a stronger response against the decision. “The dismay towards the decision should expand from sheer condemnation to actual written demands and a referendum according to article 151 of the Egyptian Constitution,” he said.
Ali reportedly submitted a lawsuit in the State Council on Sunday to decline the decision and keep the two islands under Egyptian sovereignty.Top of Form
While many expressed their concern towards the decision, others believed it should not be a matter of concern as they contextualised the decision with other violations attributed to the current regime.
Ziad El-Elaimy, politician and an MP in the 2012 parliament, said the real problem lies in the regime that justifies every decision and violation in the name of national security.