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Egypt parliament approves islands transfer to Saudi Arabia

Egypt parliament approves islands transfer to Saudi Arabia”

Egypt's House of Representatives is expected to hold a final vote on Wednesday on the controversial maritime border demarcation deal which places the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir, now administered by Egypt, in Saudi Arabia's territorial waters.

"There is nothing in the agreement that violates the constitution, " defense committee chairman Kamal Amer told the house on Wednesday, as quoted by Reuters.

The general voting was held after the parliament's Committee of Defense and National Security had approved the maritime demarcation agreement on Wednesday and the Legislative Committee had approved on Tuesday.

Island handover deal has been backed by MPs loyal to Egyptian President el-Sisi.

Dozens of Egyptian lawyers shout slogans during a protest in front of the Lawyers Syndicate in Cairo against the agreement to hand over Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia

After the islands agreement was first announced in 2016, Egypt saw the largest anti-government protests since el-Sissi took office in 2014.

Finally, in April 2016 the bilateral agreement on the islands of Tiran and Sanafir was signed during a visit of King Salman bin Abdel Aziz to Cairo.

The vote, by show of hands, came on the third day of an often raucous debate by committee members, with rival lawmakers accusing each other of treason and working for foreign governments.

The deal has been subject to challenges in court over the past year.

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Several were briefly arrested before being released but "three reporters are still detained, and contacts are being made with the interior ministry to get them released".

Opponents of the government, and even some of its supporters, were enraged by the secrecy that surrounded the agreement until it was announced.

The government says the islands - Tiran and Sanafir - have always belonged to Saudi Arabia and that Egypt was merely overseeing their administration. "It is a turning point in our relationship with the president".

Tiran, an area of about 80 square km, is located at the entrance of the Straits of Tiran, which separates the Red Sea from the Gulf of Aqaba.

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Israel returned the islands to Egypt as part of the Camp David Accords in 1979.

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