Tuesday,12 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1299, (9 - 15 June 2016)
Tuesday,12 December, 2017
Issue 1299, (9 - 15 June 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Parliament examines a raft of Saudi-Egyptian deals

Egypt’s Red Sea agreement with Saudi Arabia faces constitutional scrutiny by parliament, reports Gamal Essam El-Din 

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Al-Ahram Weekly

In a 3 June television interview to mark his second year in office President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi said the Red Sea agreement with Saudi Arabia will soon be discussed by parliament.
“The parliamentary committees which will discuss the agreement will do so freely, without facing pressure from any entity,” he said.

Al-Sisi underlined the strength of Egypt’s relationship with Saudi Arabia. “Some have attempted to exploit the Red Sea agreement with Saudi Arabia to disrupt relations with this brotherly country and mobilise the people against the government but all these attempts have failed.”

The agreement, signed during the April visit of King Salman to Egypt, fixed the maritime border between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, placing the two Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir in Saudi territorial waters, triggering street protests on 15 and 25 April.

A day after Al-Sisi’s television interview parliament’s deputy speaker Al-Sayed Al-Sherif told reporters that “parliamentary committees are ready to review the Red Sea agreement with Saudi Arabia even if this means discussing it during the fasting month of Ramadan”.

The House of Representatives has already begun reviewing the host of agreements signed with Saudi Arabia since January. In a plenary session on Saturday MPs approved a report prepared by the Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee on a Saudi-Egyptian loan agreement — the King Salman Programme for the Development of Sinai — that targets development in the peninsula.

The agreement, which was signed in Riyadh in March, provides Egypt with a $1.5 billion soft loan to help develop Sinai and buy Saudi oil products.

“Half-a-billion dollars from the loan will be allocated to developing Sinai in the form of building King Salman’s University in Al-Tor, funding agricultural and irrigation projectsand upgrading North Sinai’s network of roads,” said the Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committeereport. The remaining $1 billion will be earmarked for buying Saudi oil products which “Egypt needs for development purposes”.
The report concluded the loan agreement is in line with Article 151 of the constitution which stipulates no agreement can be entered into that involves Egypt ceding any part of its territory to another country.

 “Since the King Salman Sinai Development Programme Agreement does not affect any sovereign rights it needs only parliamentary approval, and not a public referendum, to go into effect,” said the committee.

 “It is clear the Sinai development agreement with Saudi Arabia does not affect Egypt’s sovereign rights in any way and therefore it will not be put to a public referendum,” says House of Representatives’ Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal.

A majority of MPs voted in favour of the committee’s report.

Bahaaeddin Abu Shoka, chairman of the Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee, told reporters that the Red Sea agreement with Saudi Arabia is now due to be reviewed by the committee “to assess whether or not it is in line with Article 151 of the constitution”.

“If, like the King Salman loan agreement, the Red Sea agreement is judged not to be in violation of Article 151 of the constitution it will not need to be put to a public referendum,” Abu Shoka said.

Abu Shoka stressed the two agreements are linked, noting that both “aim to develop Sinai and help rid it of any terrorist elements”.

In his television interview Al-Sisi said the Red Sea agreement with Saudi Arabia was necessary to demarcate territorial boundaries between the two countries in a clear way. In doing so “it will allow the two countries to explore for oil and natural gas within their own borders,” he said.

On Sunday parliament’s Energy and Environment Committee approved a loan agreement that will help fund the integration of the electricity grids of Egypt and Saudi. Under the agreement the Kuwaiti Fund for Economic Development will provide Egypt with 30 million Kuwaiti dinars (around $750 million) to help it implement the connection of the grids. The total cost of the project is estimated at $1.6 billion, with Saudi Arabia providing the remaining $900 million.

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