Thousands in the Egyptian capital Cairo have protested President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi decision to hand over two islands to Saudi Arabia.
Sisi’s government last week announced the uninhabited islands of Tiran and Sanafir will be demarcated as being in Saudi waters.
The islands of Tiran and Sanafir, located at the southern entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba, 200 kilometers south of the Israeli city of Eilat, will be formally demarcated as being in Saudi waters under a treaty announced on Saturday by Cairo, which has had de facto control over them since 1950.
The move seems to have hurt many Egyptians national pride.
“The islands are 100 percent Egyptian, and the documents to prove that are available,” said protester Abdullah Ezzat. “This is the first time I’ve found someone looking to prove that these islands are not Egyptian.”
Woman outside Press Synd: “Those islands are just the tip of the iceberg, everything else is also wrong in Egypt” pic.twitter.com/J4juAOdj8M— cecilia udden (@ceciliauddenm) April 15, 2016
Security sources cited by Reuters news agency said that in some areas of Cairo, police fired tear gas at protesters.
The crowd chanted slogans such as “Sisi – Mubarak”, “We don’t want you, leave,” and “The people want the downfall of the regime,” reported Reuters.
BBC Arabic بي بي سي (@BBCArabic) April 15, 2016
In 1967, Egypt blocked the Strait of Tiran, a move that prompted Israel to launch a Middle East war. In its 1979 peace deal with Israel, Cairo promised to respect freedom of shipping in Aqaba and Eilat, a commitment that Saudi Arabia says it will uphold when it takes over the islands.
Eilat is Israel’s only port in the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea, while Aqaba is Jordan’s sole outlet there.
Israel’s Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon confirmed in a briefing to Israeli military reporters on Tuesday that the Saudis, who have no formal relations with Israel, would abide by the details of the peace deal, Israel Radio said.
Israel’s Haaretz newspaper said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been told in advance of the Egyptian-Saudi treaty and raised no immediate objection.
A powerful lawmaker in the premier’s rightist Likud party said the treaty would not threaten Israel.
“It relates to us and it does not bother us,” the lawmaker, Tzachi Hanegbi, who heads parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, told Israel’s Army Radio in an interview.
“The Saudis, who are committed to freedom of shipping under international law, will not harm the essence of the agreement between Egypt and us in this regard, and freedom of shipping in Aqaba and Eilat will remain as is.”
Riyadh keeps a frosty posture to Israel
“There will be no direct relationship between the kingdom and Israel due to the return of these islands,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Egypt’s CBC television.
Israel has agreed to allow a bridge to be constructed connecting Saudi Arabia to Egypt as part of the Saudi plans for the islands.
In a 1979 peace deal with Israel, Cairo promised to respect freedom of shipping in Aqaba and Eilat, a commitment that Saudi Arabia says it will uphold when it takes over the islands.
شارع شامبليون الان pic.twitter.com/OGU76IB1LN— حليم الشعراني (@HaleemElsharani) April 15, 2016