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Sun 25 Jun 2017 09:01 AM

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Egypt's Sisi ratifies island handover to Saudi Arabia

Egyptian President backs the maritime border treaty days after parliament approved the deal

Egypt's Sisi ratifies island handover to Saudi Arabia
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ratified a treaty that hands over two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia in a deal that had sparked protests and a police crackdown, the cabinet said Saturday.

Sisi ratified the maritime border treaty days after parliament approved the deal, which has been the subject of a confusing legal battle with one court annulling the treaty and another upholding it.

The treaty, first announced in April 2016, had fuelled rare protests and police have arrested dozens of activists over the past week after calls for more demonstrations.

It had also been challenged in courts, but the country's highest tribunal had suspended the contradictory rulings this week until a final decision determined which court has jurisdiction.

Parliament's vote on June 14 came after days of heated debate in with opponents even interrupting one committee session with chanting.

The accord had sparked rare protests in Egypt, with Sisi accused of having traded the islands of Tiran and Sanafir for Saudi largesse.

The government has said the islands were Saudi to begin with, but were leased to Egypt in the 1950s.

Opponents of the agreement insist that Tiran and Sanafir are Egyptian.