Cairo Court nullifies Egypt’s sovereignty over Red Sea islands

The Cairo Court for Urgent Matters nullified on Sunday the Supreme Administrative Court's final ruling which had stipulated that Egypt has sovereignity over the disputed Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir.

Khaled Ali, one of the lawyers that filed the initial lawsuit asserting the Egyptian sovereignity of the two islands said on Sunday that Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court judgement can not be suspended because its ruliing was final.

"The new ruling can not be considered in any way.  No party is allowed to suspend the Supreme's court ruling that supported voiding the demarcation agreement," Ali said. 

Sunday's judicial decision can be appealed. Any final transfer agreement must be further approved by the Egyptian parliament.

The lawsuit, filed by lawyer Ashraf Farahat, ordered the necessity of an objective executive judicial ruling, dropping the causes of Judgment No. 74236 issued by the examination department of the State Council and continuing the implementation of the ruling of the first appeal court, thus invalidating the border demarcation agreement that would have transferred the two islands to Saudi Arabia.

Farahat claimed in his lawsuit that the State Council’s decision is “out of context” and allows the ruling to override all judicial and state authorities, as well as overriding Egypt’s constitution and laws.

In January, Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court rejected an Egyptian government appeal, declaring the transfer of the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia as void. The verdict, which was announced to be final and can no longer be appealed, confirmed that Egypt cannot legally transfer the Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.

The two islands, located in the Red Sea to the east of the Sinai Peninsula and the west of the Arabian Peninsula, have previously been administered by Egypt but Saudi Arabia has also laid claim to them.

In 1949, Saudi Arabia allowed Egypt to occupy the two islands “for defensive purposes” following the establishment of the Israeli state. Egypt proceeded to block passage through the Strait of Tiran, Israel’s only maritime passage from the Gulf of Aqaba to the Red Sea. Tiran Island was captured by Israel during the Six-Day War of 1967 and remained under Israeli control until 1982.

Egypt maintains that it never had full sovereignty over the two islands and was simply controlling them administratively.

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