Egyptian committee approves island transfer to Saudi Arabia

Egyptian parliamentary committee approves transfer of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia.

Ben Ariel ,

Aerial view of the two islands of Tiran and Sanafir
Aerial view of the two islands of Tiran and Sanafir

An Egyptian parliamentary committee on Tuesday approved a controversial agreement for Cairo to hand over the two Red Sea islands Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia, AFP reported.

Parliament's legislative committee approved the treaty after a heated debate, with 35 lawmakers voting in favor and eight against, member of parliament Mostafa Bakry told the news agency.

Parliament's defense committee will also examine the accord before it goes to a general vote.

The accord was first announced in April of 2016, triggering protests by the Egyptian public who believe the islands are Egyptian.

One court rejected the agreement in January, but Egypt’s Court of Urgent Matters voided that ruling in April.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi defended the agreement, saying Egypt did not give up territory but rather "restored" the rights of Saudi Arabia to the islands.

The two islands provide Israel's only access to the port of Aqaba, though reports have suggested that Egypt informed Israel in advance of its intention to transfer the sovereignty over the two islands.