The Cairo Court of Urgent Matters has rejected an appeal by lawyers against the transfer of the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia.
In its ruling, the Court accepted the government’s case and upheld a previous ruling allowing the Egyptian government to proceed with the controversial transfer.
Earlier in 2016, the transfer was annulled by an administrative court, forcing the Egyptian government to submit an appeal.
Despite today’s court ruling, the Supreme Administrative Court is set to issue a final ruling on 16 January to settle the uncertainty surrounding the transfer.
The agreement has been very controversial in Egypt. Protesters were held in early 2016 against the move and several lawyers submitted lawsuits against the government.
The two islands, located in the Red Sea to the east of the Sinai Peninsula and the west of the Arabian Peninsula, have previously been administered by Egypt but Saudi Arabia has also laid claim to them.
In 1949, Saudi Arabia allowed Egypt to occupy the two islands “for defense purposes” following the establishment of the Israeli state. Egypt proceeded to block passage through the Strait of Tiran, Israel’s only maritime passage from the Gulf of Aqaba to the Red Sea.
Tiran Island was captured by Israel during the Six-Day War of 1967 and remained under Israeli control until 1982.
Egypt maintains that it never had full sovereignty over the two islands and was simply controlling them administratively.