Egyptian court quashes transfer of Red Sea Islands

Court overturns Egypt's decision to cede Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.

The Egyptian government is set to appeal a court's nullification of its controversial decision in April to cede two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.

The 21 June ruling by the Egyptian State Council, which oversees legal cases filed against the government, quashed the decision to give Saudi Arabia control of the tiny islands of Tiran and Sanafir.

The ruling follows widespread protests and 150 arrests over the maritime border deal which coincided with a Saudi multi-billion dollar aid package for Egypt.

At the time of the hand-over in April many Egyptians claimed that Egypt was exchanging the islands' sovereignty for financial gain. However the nation's president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi claimed the islands had always been Saudi territory and that the agreement was merely clarifying their place in Saudi waters.

The tiny islands are located off Egypt's Sinai province, in a narrow passage at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba, and are bordered by Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. They are uninhabited except for Egyptian troops which have been stationed there since 1950, at Riyadh's request, to offer protection from Israel which occupied them briefly during the Suez crisis in 1956.

The Egyptian government is expected to challenge the ruling at the High Administrative Court, which has the power to overrule the lower court's annulment.

Saudi Arabia has provided Egypt with billions of dollars in aid since Sisi led the military's 2013 ouster of Islamist former president Mohammed Morsi who was recently sentenced to life in prison for allegedly stealing secret state security documents.