Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Egyptians protest transfer of two islands to Saudiyya

Egypt's announcement during a five-day visit by King Salman that it would transfer two Red Sea islands to its Saudi ally has outraged Egyptians, who took to social media to criticize the move, which now faces a legal challenge.The Egyptian government said in a statement on Saturday that the two countries had signed maritime demarcation accords that put the islands of Tiran and Sanafir in Saudi waters, a process it said had taken six years.
Earlier, on Friday, after a meeting with Egyptian presidnt Abdel fattah al-Sisi, King Salman announced that a bridge connecting Egypt and Saudi Arabia would be built across the Red Sea. No details were given. Also Saudi Arabia is expected to sign a $20 billion deal to finance Egypt's oil needs for the next five years and a $1.5 billion deal to develop its Sinai region, two Egyptian government sources told Reuters.
 Saudi and Egyptian officials said about the the islands thatb they belong to the kingdom and were only under Egyptian control because Saudi Arabia's founder, Abdulaziz Al Saud, asked Egypt in 1950 to protect them.
But the accord, which still needs ratification by Egypt's parliament, caused consternation among Egyptians, many who said they were taught in school the islands were theirs. The hashtag "Awad sold his land" trended on Twitter after the announcement, referring to a song about an Egyptian who sold his land, seen as a shameful act.
Egypt has struggled to restore economic growth since the 2011 uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak's 30-year-rule.
Saudi Arabia, which opposes the Muslim Brotherhood, has showered Egypt with billions of dollars in aid since general-turned-President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted elected President Mohammed Mursi of the Brotherhood in 2013 and banned the group. That has led many to wonder if Egypt sold the islands. Egyptian comic Basem Yousef, exiled after lampooning successive leaders, compared Sisi on Twitter to a bazaar merchant willing to sell his country and its heritage: "Come closer sir, the island is one billion, the pyramid is two with two statues on top for free."
As anger spread on Monday, veteran lawyer Khaled Ali filed a complaint with the administrative court, arguing that according to a 1906 maritime treaty between Egypt and the Ottoman Empire, the islands are Egyptian and the move amounts to a transfer of sovereignty. The treaty precedes the founding of Saudi Arabia in 1932.
Ali is alleging that the accord violates article 151 of Egypt's constitution, which requires all treaties related to sovereignty to be approved by referendum. The court will hear the case on May 17.
Thousands of people have supported a Facebook campaign calling for protest on Friday "to protect our country."
Egypt's state-owned Al Ahram newspaper reported on Monday that Israel had been informed in advance about the treaty, as it is entangled in a 1979 peace deal with Israel. Many Egyptians were upset their government thought of Israel but not them.
"Even if Saudi Arabia is entitled to the islands ... to hand them over to Saudi in this way, without consideration for Egyptians, showing no respect for their feelings, presence and even their pride in their nation?" television chat show host Wael El Ebrashy said on Sunday night. "We are all shocked."

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