The Cabinet announced on Thursday that it will submit the deal facilitating the sovereign transfer of Sanafir and Tiran islands to Saudi Arabia to Parliament for approval.
The move comes weeks before the Supreme Administrative Court is expected to issue a final ruling on the government’s appeal of a June sentence that annulled the deal originally struck in April.
“The Cabinet has reviewed the deal and followed all procedures and measures necessary to be taken with all parties. Parliament sent the Cabinet a motion earlier in the day inquiring why the deal had not yet been sent to them in accordance with constitutional articles,” asserted the Cabinet’s statement.
The government’s decision to submit the deal to Parliament ahead of the court’s ruling may have other implications, according to Malek Adly, one of the lawyers who filed the initial lawsuit contesting the transfer.
“The government currently faces a criminal charge. If Parliament passes the deal, it will also face a criminal probe,” Adly tells Mada Masr. “There are several reasons for this. First, there is an enforceable sentence that annuls the deal. There is no reason why that has not been implemented. According to Article 123 of the penal code, any public employee obstructing the implementation of a judicial verdict will be expelled from office and imprisoned. Additionally, the legal article stipulates that the state representative in international agreements should be the president rather than the government.”
“The administrative court’s verdict means that the islands are under Egyptian sovereignty. Accordingly, going through with the procedures of ratifying the deal violates Article 151 of the Constitution, which prohibits the relinquishment of Egyptian land under any circumstance. Hence, this is a case of violating the law and the Constitution, as well as an act aggression against sovereignty over Egyptian land,” Adly added. “If Parliament ratifies the agreement, we will be in an unprecedented situation. Basically, we will be confronted by a violation of a judicial verdict by state authorities, executive and legislative.”
The Supreme Administrative Court adjourned the verdict on the government’s appeal of the decision to annul the agreement to 16 January.
Member of Parliament Mostafa Bakry issued a statement earlier this week demanding that Prime Minister Sherif Ismail inform Parliament why there has been a delay in conveying the details of the Sanafir and Tiran islands agreement to the legislative body.
The government’s surprising move follows an unannounced visit to Cairo by Torky bin Abdel Mohsen, a consultant to the Saudi royal court. Abdel Mohsen accompanied Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz on his visit to Egypt in April, when the deal was brokered.
There have been several signs of diplomatic tension between Egypt and Saudi Arabia in the past few months, the most notable of which was Saudi Aramco’s decision to halt its oil shipments to Egypt, despite a five-year, US$23-billion agreement to provide the Egyptian General Petroleum Company with 700,000 tons of refined petroleum products per month.