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Passing of Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia based on letters in the 1990s - Daily News Egypt

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Passing of Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia based on letters in the 1990s

Egypt reassured Israel that the Saudis would have same commitments 


The official Egyptian Gazette published on Thursday details of the presidential decree on the controversial Red Sea islands maritime deal with Saudi Arabia, including references to letters exchanged between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Israel.

Three letters between former Saudi Foreign minister Seoud Al-Faisal and his Egyptian counterpart Esmat Abdul Megeed in 1988, 1989, and 1990 were mentioned.

The content of the letters had previously been made public by the government, using them as proof of its argument during the internal legal battle over sovereignty on the islands.

In the letters, Saudi Arabia asserted its ownership of the islands, while at the same time saying it had left them to Egypt in its military battle against Israel, emphasizing that they would then be returned to Saudi Arabia.

Egypt had responded in 1990 by stating that it was best if the islands remained under its sovereignty until Saudi Arabia needed them.

On 29 December, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi officially passed the maritime border agreement signed with Saudi Arabia in April 2016, which would place the islands of Tiran and Sanafir under Saudi sovereignty. The Egyptian state argued that the islands had initially belonged to Saudi Arabia and that Egypt had been managing them.

A complex legal battle started in April shortly after the signing, which was faced by demonstrations.

A lawsuit was filed against the government before the Administrative Court, where lawyers opposing the deal presented historical maps and documents showing that the islands had always been Egyptian and that the deal would mean ceding lands to a foreign country.

Three other letters exchanged between current Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were taken into consideration.

The letters, one in May and two in December2016, aimed to assure Israel that the Saudis will be committed to the Camp David accords and agreements between Egypt and Israel.

Although the court rejected the deal by considering the islands an inseparable part of Egyptian soil, the government took the case to another court, which in turn kept reversing every verdict of the administrative court.

Moreover, the constitutional court didn’t conclude on which institution was the legal entity to overlook the deal.

The parliament ratified the agreement in June. The notice published in the Gazette said the agreement was effective as of July 2017.

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