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Public controversy over Thasos island rumours, cabinet denies selling properties to Greece - Daily News Egypt

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Public controversy over Thasos island rumours, cabinet denies selling properties to Greece

Lack of state transparency led to inaccurate information surrounding maritime demarcation between Egypt and Greece

The Ministry of Religious Endowment denied on Monday information circulated about the transferral of ownership on any of its endowments on Greek islands to Greece, according to state media.

The ministry statement came after a lawsuit was filed by plaintiffs Hamido Gamil and Ali Ayoub to the Administrative Court on Sunday, accusing President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi of signing a maritime demarcation agreement to transfer Chois island to Greece.

Similarly, spokesperson for the prime minister Hossam El-Kawish told Daily News Egypt that he doubts the validity of this alleged agreement, explaining that there are no borders between Egypt and Greece to implement such an agreement. He also added that the only authority to be questioned regarding the issue is the Endowments Ministry since it is responsible for the island, affirming that he does not have any information about it.

The ministry denied the allegations, clarifying that a ministry delegation, headed by the undersecretary of the Ministry of Endowments for investment affairs, is scheduled to visit Greece. The delegation is set to decide the best investments for the ministry’s properties on the island and to decide on necessary repairs of Egyptian-owned monuments in the city of Kavala and Thasos island.

Thasos is the island on which the Egyptian ministry has properties—not Chois island as mentioned in the lawsuit and on different media outlets. Chois is another Greek island that has no relation to Egypt or the Ministry of Endowments.

The misunderstanding over the island names came after the former general director of the ministry administration Atef Osman mentioned Chois island, rather than Thasos, during a televised interview for independent TV channel Al-Nahar about ministry properties in Greece.

This misunderstanding was also confirmed by Khaled Fahmy, a professor at Harvard University, who explained that although Chois island is geographically closer to Egypt, it does not house Egyptian Endowment Ministry properties, saying that Thasos is the island that contains such properties.

He also doubted the validity of the alleged agreement and believes the information spread about the island in media is false and misleading, according to a note published on his Facebook page  providing more of an explanation of the island’s history and its connection to Egypt.

Ayoub refused to provide information on how they heard of the alleged agreement, which is not published on any official website, saying that he was informed by secret sources.

He only said that he knew after the Greek government refused to pay rent for the properties on the island in accordance with a 1997 contract confirming that the island is owned by Greece, in accordance with an agreement for a new maritime border demarcation signed by Al-Sisi and the Greek president in 2015.

The lawsuit was filed against Al-Sisi, the cabinet, and the ministries of foreign affairs and religious endowments. No information has been published about the agreement on any of the four entities’ official websites or announced by their spokespersons. Furthermore, the last agreement between Egypt and Greece was in 2008.

The lack of information about Egypt’s resources and properties for the second time has caused false information to spread in the media, and lead people to question the validity of the news. Fahmy also criticised this, saying that the Egyptian state is responsible for this distrust due to its history of hiding information from the public.

He concluded that this misunderstanding and controversy occurred over the Tiran and Sanfir ownership issue, in which people were divided due to a lack of sufficient information over the ownership of both islands.

The statement denied the lawsuit accusations saying: “It is not true at all. What is rumoured comes from lies and slander that Egypt waived some of its properties on Thasos island.” The statement stressed the country’s eagerness to maintain its assets on the island, both civil and governmental, and to develop and manage them for the benefit of society.


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