Egypt’s parliament have just approved a treaty to let go of its sovereignty over two uninhabited Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, House of Representatives Speaker, Ali Abdelaal said in a statement on Wednesday.
For formal proceedings to continue, the treaty must now be ratified by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Much controversy has surrounded the bill as critics have called the surrendering of the island treason, and claim it is linked to Saudi financial aid, a charge denied by authorities.
The islands in the agreement, Tiran and Sanafir, sit at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba. The Egyptian government contends that these islands belong to Saudi Arabia, which placed them in Cairo’s custody in the 1950s for protection against possible Israeli attacks.
Sisi’s government last year announced a maritime demarcation agreement with Saudi Arabia, which has given billions of dollars of aid to Egypt, ceding control of the islands of Tiran and Sanafir to the Gulf kingdom – Reuters reports.
The government’s decision to take last year’s agreement to parliament came at a time when relations between Cairo and Riyadh had just emerged from months of tension over differences in approach to regional flashpoints like Syria and Yemen.
Over the past two months, Sisi visited Saudi Arabia twice. Last week, the two regional heavyweights joined allies the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in a coalition against Qatar, the tiny but energy-rich nation they accuse of supporting “extremist” groups and being too close to Iran.