Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Breaking Island News

Middle East: Red Sea Islands Reignite Egyptian Unrest

Angry protesters have taken to the streets of Cairo after President Sisi signed a new border demarcation agreement ceding the sovereignty of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.

  • A new border demarcation agreement between Egypt and Saudi Arabia was signed during King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud’s recent five-day visit to Cairo
  • As part of the agreement, the sovereignty of two uninhabited islands in the Red Sea – Tiran and Sarafir – was transferred from Egypt to Saudi Arabia
  • Thousands of Egyptians took to the streets to protest the action, denouncing the decision as an affront to the nation

Egyptians See Red over Red Sea Islands Deal

Tiran Island - Courtesy of EgyptianStreets.com

Tiran Island – Courtesy of EgyptianStreets.com

A new wave of protests has hit the Egypt, as outraged citizens take to the street to object about the new maritime border demarcation agreement between Riyadh and Cairo. The contentious agreement was signed during King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud’s five day state visit that began on April 7th 2016.

Under the new agreement, Egypt has agreed to transfer the sovereignty of two uninhabited islands in the Red Sea – Tiran and Sarafir – to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in exchange for a USD 25 billion dollar economic package, which includes the creation of a joint investment fund, the establishment of a free trade zone in the Sinai Peninsula and a five-year petroleum agreement. The deal also paves way for the construction of a bridge between KSA and Sharm el Sheikh.

The demarcation agreement has proved to be immensely unpopular amongst the Egyptian people, who consider the agreement to be a short sighted decision, which is tantamount to selling off their sovereign land from under their feet. The reality, however, appears to be much more complicated.

A Sale of Sovereignty or a Return to Rightful Owners?

Seeking to quell the increasing sense of public outrage, President Sisi insisted that he hadn’t surrendered “even a grain of sand,” going on to explain how government records prove Saudi Arabia’s claim over the islands.

The islands of Tiran and Sarafir, which are located in the Gulf of Aqaba (Red Sea), have only formed part of Egypt’s sovereign territory since 1950. Prior to that, the islands belonged to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The then-monarch, King Farouk, transferred custody of the islands to Egypt in the face of the increasing threat of Israeli expansion.

Sisi’s attempts to appease the Egyptian population have largely been met with cynicism. Satirist Bassem Youssef took to social media network, Twitter, to offer a characteristically dry take on the affair: “Roll up, roll up, the island is for a billion, the pyramid for two and a couple of statues thrown in for free.”

Tiran and Sarafir Islands

Despite being uninhabited islands of Tiran and Sarafir are strategically important because of their location on the sea route to the ports of Aqaba in Jordan and Eilat in Israel. Due to its role in the Arab-Israeli War in 1967, the islands hold a special place in the hearts of many Egyptians.

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