Egyptian Court Says Maritime Pact With Saudi Arabia Valid

  • The border pact cedes two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia
  • Critics contended the pact amounted to trading land for money

An Egyptian court on Sunday said its earlier ruling effectively validating a controversial maritime border pact with Saudi Arabia remained in place, further muddying an almost yearlong dispute that had strained relations between the two countries.

The Urgent Matters court challenged the legal explanation given by the Supreme Administrative Court in January to invalidate the pact that would have handed over to Saudi Arabia two Red Sea islands, the state-run Ahram Gate news website reported.

The latest ruling came just days after President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and the Saudi king met on the sidelines of an Arab League summit, with the Egyptian leader accepting an invitation to travel to the kingdom. The invitation, coupled with Saudi Arabia’s decision to resume oil shipments to Egypt after unexpectedly suspending them last year, appeared to signal a re-warming of ties between the two Arab heavyweights.

The maritime pact dispute has been taken up by a number of Egyptian courts, with the government seeking a stay in the voiding of the deal. The case had been initially raised by lawyers challenging whether the government had the right to cede to the kingdom what they claimed was Egyptian territory. News of the deal triggered the first major protest against El-Sisi since his 2014 election.

Shawky El-Sayed, a lawyer who specializes in Egyptian constitutional law, said the Urgent Matters court doesn’t have jurisdiction to invalidate rulings made by the Supreme Administrative Court. The current dispute between the two courts might need to be settled by the Supreme Constitutional Court, the nation’s highest judicial body, he said.

The Supreme Administrative Court said in January that Egypt’s rights to the two islands are "indisputable." The government had contended the islands had always belonged to Saudi Arabia.

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