Egypt Court Blocks Cancellation of Maritime Deal With Saudi

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People fleeing Libya walk with their belongings toward the Egyptian border city of Sallum on February 28, 2011. The violence in Libya has triggered a mass exodus of foreigners, with 100,000 migrant workers fleeing the unrest as the humanitarian situation has "deteriorated significantly" over the last few days said European crisis response commissioner Kristalina Georgieva. AFP PHOTO / PHIL MOORE

A Cairo court on Thursday blocked the nullification of a maritime border pact between Egypt and Saudi Arabia that entails the return of two Red Sea islands to the oil-rich kingdom.

The Court for Urgent Matters halted the implementation of an administrative court ruling in June canceling the deal. The government had appealed the voiding of the agreement.

The April maritime border agreement, coming at the tail end of a state visit by Saudi King Salman, triggered the biggest protest against President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi since his 2014 election. Critics accused the government of trading Egyptian land for aid from the OPEC giant, but officials said the islands of Tiran and Sanafir have always belonged to Saudi Arabia.

Ali Ayoub, one of the lawyers who challenged the agreement, said he would appeal the latest court ruling, calling it “politically instigated.”

The June ruling prevented the government from sending the agreement to parliament for ratification and embarrassed El-Sisi after the Saudi king pledged billions of dollars in aid and investments to help revive Egypt’s economy.

An appeal filed with the Supreme Administrative Court, challenging the lower court’s decision, is pending.

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