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

Egypt’s Court of Urgent Matters on Sunday ruled that a judicial decision to block the transfer of two Red Sea Islands to Saudi Arabia is void, sources told the Reuters news agency.

A court rejected in January a government plan to transfer the two islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia after a maritime demarcation accord was announced in April, triggering protests by the Egyptian public who believe the islands are Egyptian.

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.

Sunday's decision is subject to appeal and any final deal must be approved by parliament, according to Reuters.

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

Saudi and Egyptian officials say that the islands belonged to Saudi Arabia and were only under Egyptian control because Riyadh asked Cairo in 1950 to protect them.

Lawyers who had opposed the accord said Egypt’s sovereignty over the islands dated back to a treaty in 1906, before Saudi Arabia was founded.