The Egyptian government has handed over the ownership of disputed Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia amid strong objection from several former officials as well as the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Egyptian cabinet announced in a statement released on Saturday that both islands fall within the territorial waters of Saudi Arabia as codified in the maritime border agreement signed between Cairo and Riyadh the previous day.
Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail inked the border demarcation accord with the Saudi side in the presence of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in the Federal Presidential Palace, eastern Cairo.
The agreement is going to be presented to the parliament for ratification.
Analysts, dissidents question legitimacy of agreement
Meanwhile, legal experts and opposition figures in Egypt have cast doubt on the legitimacy of the agreement on the two strategic islands, arguing that relinquishing authority over Egyptian territory is unconstitutional.
The banned opposition movement, Muslim Brotherhood, also denounced the agreement in a statement which said, "The Muslim Brotherhood hereby declares unequivocally that no one has the right to abandon the property and resources of the Egyptian people in exchange for a fistful of dollars, or in exchange for support for government policies sanctioning murder, detentions, violations, forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings."
Exiled politician, Ayman Nour, also dismissed the agreement along with nine other opposition figures.
“Once people are free, they will not approve agreements that were signed during the reign of governments that are used to giving away the rights of their citizens,” Nour said.
Tiran Island is located at the entrance of the Straits of Tiran, which separates the Red Sea from the Gulf of Aqaba. Its strategic significance lies in the fact that it is an important sea passage to the major ports of Aqaba in Jordan and Eilat in Israel.
Israel briefly took over the island during the Suez Crisis in late 1956, and once more between 1967 and 1982 following the Six Day War.
Sanafir Island is in the east of Tiran Island, and measures 33 square kilometers (13 square miles) in area.
Ownership of the two islands was handed to Egyptian control in 1982, when Tel Aviv and Cairo signed the so-called Camp David peace accords.