Members of parliament call for review and referendum on islands agreement

Several members of parliament have expressed disapproval over the transfer of islands “Tiran” and “Sanafeer” to Saudi Arabia, citing article 151 of the Egyptian constitution, which dictates that all agreements need to be reviewed by parliament; especially agreements concerning the drawing of national borders. The constitution also dictates that where borders are concerned, a nation-wide referendum is required before any agreements can be finalized. 

Member of Parliament Haitham el Hariry said the agreement must be reviewed by parliament, adding that this will be one of the most risky decisions in the parliament’s history. He continued that everything surrounding this agreement needs to be studied. Taking a decision without ample knowledge of the matter, he said, would be unfair to future generations. 

Given that the building of the bridge is dependent on handing over the islands to Saudi Arabia, Hariry argued, "We should give up the bridge and keep the land".

"People should also be aware that the Camp David stance on Area G (where the islands are) may change,” he added, referring to talk of effacing the two islands to allow Israel to lay a canal that would run parallel to the Suez Canal. 

El Hariry stated that neither the president nor the prime minister have the right to sign such an agreement without the necessary documentation to legitimize it, or without first opening up a national dialogue. El Hariry says he will not be endorsing this agreement when it comes before the parliament. 

Member of Parliament Youssef Al Kaeed emphasizes that it is of utmost importance that the agreement be brought before parliament, saying, “this agreement should not have been signed without it being approved by parliament.” Al Kaeed adds that it will only be legitimized by a nationwide referendum.

Parliamentary member Samir Ghatas raised another issue, asking, “Why are these islands being returned to Saudi Arabia if they were already owned by them?” By signing the agreement, he claimed, Saudi Arabia has become a participant in the Camp David treaty. By owning two islands whose positions are dictated by Camp David, said Ghatas, Saudi Arabia is now Israel’s neighbor. He warned of an American project at foot in that part of the region, in cooperation with Israel. 

Member of Parliament Nadia Henry firmly rejected the agreement and insisted that article 151 of the constitution be implemented. “My problem is not the ownership of the islands, but rather that while they are still owned by Egypt, any decisions regarding them need to be brought before the Egyptian people in a referendum.” Henry urged parliament to use its clout to demand from the government and the state that the constitution be upheld. She also urged parliament to form a committee to examine the maps and documents regarding the agreement. 

“The rule of Egypt should not be conducted behind closed doors. The nation and its representatives must know what is happening,” she asserted, adding that the agreement represents a serious threat to the parliament and to the country as a whole. 

Meanwhile, Member of Parliament Mohamed Abu Hamid argued that both islands are in fact Saudi, and called on the head of parliament, Dr. Aly Abdel Aal, to release a statement outlining the truth about the islands. “What is being conducted by media outlets now is only political upstaging and it needs to stop,” he stated.

Dr. Emad Gad predicts that the agreement will be brought before the parliament causing heated negotiations between the representatives, before the inevitable decision is made. “It was wrong to sign the agreement without it being looked over by specialized academics and an effective negotiation team,” he said. 

Edited translation from Al-Masry al-Youm

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