Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has assured US President Donald Trump that Cairo will hand over the two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, according to a US-based Egyptian diplomat.
The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said “Sisi said that Egypt has not pulled back from the deal and that they are serious about carrying through with it after parliament approves the legal requirements.”
On Sunday, Egyptian court voided a previous decision to block the transfer the two Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia.
The court’s ruling came days after Sisi met with Saudi King Salman on the sidelines of the Arab League summit in Jordan, breaking the ice after months of tensions between the longtime allies.
Signs of reconciliation appeared recently between Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
First, media reports cited the Egyptian Petroleum Ministry saying that Saudi Arabian state oil company Aramco will resume oil product supply to Egypt some six months after halting them suddenly.
The move signaled a potential thaw in relations after months of tension after abruptly suspending delivering shipments of petroleum products last October.
The move was announced after Egypt voted in favor of a Russian-drafted UN Security Council resolution on Syria that Saudi Arabia strongly opposed.
It is worth to mention that Saudi Arabia is a leading supporter of the Syrian opposition, while Egypt has pushed for a political solution that might keep Syria’s dictator Bashar al-Assad in power.
Second, King Salman invited al-Sisi to visit Saudi Arabia during their recent meeting in the Arab Summit.
Hours after the ruling was announced, Egyptian judges held a news conference in protest of a draft law that expands the president’s control of the judiciary.
Judges believe the draft law is tailored to prevent specific judges from presiding over top courts and that it is linked to the two high-profile rulings that annulled the Saudi islands deal.
Moreover, the latest court decision on Sunday has been met with angry responses.
Khaled Ali, the head lawyer contesting the transfer of two islands, said in a statement that the ruling was “unconstitutional and illegal”.
Ali said on Facebook, “This is a pathetic attempt to legitimize a deal to waiver Egyptian land.”
In the same context, Egyptian lawmaker Haitham al-Hariri said that the Court of Urgent Matters did not have the right to nullify the previous ruling.
Last January, a court rejected a controversial government deal that gave away the two strategic islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia which led to massive criticism and outrage among the Egyptians.
Critics, journalists, and activists accused Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of “selling Egypt” to Saudi Arabia in return for financial aid.
In response, thousands of Egyptians took to the streets in protests on April 15 (Land Day) and April 25 (Sinai Liberation Day) against the agreement, calling for the “Downfall of the Regime.”
The demonstrations were the first huge movement against the al-Sisi regime that included different political affiliations and groups.
The Egyptian security forces led arrest campaigns of activists and journalists who opposed the transfer of the islands.
Moreover, Egypt’s courts have fined tens of the protesters while others were handed down prison sentences that ranged from two to five years.
In addition, a court sentenced seven defendants to eight years in prison each and fined them.
Accordingly, the timing of the the court’s verdict and al-Sisi’s assured statement to US President on transfer Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia infers that US has a great interest in maintaining good relation between Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
In this context, did Trump administration ordered Egypt to reconcile its differences with Saudi Arabia?
Moreover, will Trump work on establishing an Arab Sunni alliance from U.S traditional client states in the Middle East against Iran?
Days ago the Time wrote,”There has been talk of deeper U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led coalition’s fight against Shiite rebels in Yemen, with Egypt possibly being urged to contribute forces.”
It is worth to mention that Egypt has never shared Saudi Arabia’s view of Iran as a looming existential threat and has also resisted pressure from Riyadh to contribute troops to the war in Yemen. Trump’s position on Tehran seems closer to the Saudi perspective.