CAIRO – On June 21, an Egyptian court declared a maritime border agreement with Saudi Arabia, which was announced way back in April this year, as invalid.

This agreement has resulted in protests throughout Egypt as citizens strongly believe that the Tiran and Sanafir islands are a part of Egypt. A day after this declaration, 22 people were acquitted for protesting against the government’s decision to transfer the islands to Saudi Arabia. In April, more than 200 people were arrested, out of which 150 have either been given jail sentences or have to pay a fine.

Strategically, Tiran and Sanafir islands are of significance as they form the Straits of Tiran, a major sea passage that connects to ports of Aqaba in Jordan and Eilat in Israel.

Officials said that the islands belonged to Saudi Arabia and only were under Egypt for protection as Riyadh had asked Cairo in 1950. The citizens, however, believe that the islands were sold to Saudi Arabia during the Saudi king’s visit to Cairo, which was to build diplomatic relations between the two nations. However, now the court has struck down this agreement claiming that Egypt has sovereignty over the islands and that couldn’t be given up as it hurts national sentiment.

– Deiptimaan Chowdhury, Correspondent (Asia: Middle East & Central)