Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court has rejected an Egyptian government appeal, declaring void the transfer of the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia.
The verdict, which is final and can no longer be appealed, confirms that Egypt cannot legally transfer the Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia despite an agreement between the country and Saudi Arabia.
Earlier in 2016, the transfer was annulled by an administrative court, forcing the Egyptian government to submit an appeal.
It remains unclear what the Egyptian government will do now in the wake of the court’s ruling. The ruling is an administrative one and not a constitutional one, indicating that the government may propose a new agreement with Saudi Arabia.
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.