Egyptians Outraged At Government Plan To Hand Over Islands To Saudi Arabia As Saudi King Arrives In Turkey

While the algos are focusing on where the next "OPEC freeze" headline (and subsequent rejection) will come from, Saudi Arabia is quietly creating a new alliance among the U.S. "reject" nations in the region.

Earlier today, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomed Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz at the Presidential Palace in Ankara on Tuesday. After an official welcoming ceremony, Erdogan presented the order of the State of the Republic of Turkey to the Saudi monarch. It is the Saudi king's first visit to Turkey since ascending the throne early last year.


Salman arrived in Ankara en route from Egypt, where he had paid a five-day-visit.

According to Anadolu, the visit has been realized before an Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit hosted by Turkey is expected to take positive relations between the two countries to an important level.  The OIC summit is to be held in Istanbul on April 14 and 15 says the Turkish president's office. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will host the event.

And while King Salman will move to push for closer strategic ties with Turkey which lately has seen its relations with the U.S. cool substantially and is thus willing to find a new foreign partner, the fallout of his visit to Egypt has infuriated the locals.

As a reminder, the Egyptian government said on Saturday that the two countries had signed maritime demarcation accords that put the islands of Tiran and Sanafir in Saudi waters in the process handing over the two islands to the Saudi kingdom,

As Reuters reported, "Egypt's announcement during a five-day visit by King Salman that it would transfer two Red Sea islands to its Saudi ally has outraged Egyptians, who took to social media to criticize the move, which now faces a legal challenge."


Saudi and Egyptian officials said the islands belong to the kingdom and were only under Egyptian control because Saudi Arabia's founder, Abdulaziz Al Saud, asked Egypt in 1950 to protect them.

But the accord, which still needs ratification by Egypt's parliament, caused consternation among Egyptians, many who said they were taught in school the islands were theirs.

According to the government they were wrong, and as a result they promptly took to Twitter.

The hashtag "Awad sold his land" trended on Twitter after the announcement, referring to a song about an Egyptian who sold his land, seen as a shameful act. Egypt has struggled to restore economic growth since the 2011 uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak's 30-year-rule.

Saudi Arabia, which opposes the Muslim Brotherhood, has showered Egypt with billions of dollars in aid since general-turned-President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted elected President Mohammed Mursi of the Brotherhood in 2013 and banned the group.

That led many to wonder if Egypt sold the islands.

Egyptian comic Basem Yousef, exiled after lampooning successive leaders, compared Mr Sisi on Twitter to a bazaar merchant willing to sell his country and its heritage: "Come closer sir, the island is one billion, the pyramid is two with two statues on top for free."

As anger spread on Monday, veteran lawyer Khaled Ali filed a complaint with the administrative court, arguing that according to a 1906 maritime treaty between Egypt and the Ottoman Empire, the islands are Egyptian and the move amounts to a transfer of sovereignty. The treaty precedes the founding of Saudi Arabia in 1932.

Ali is alleging that the accord violates article 151 of Egypt's constitution, which requires all treaties related to sovereignty to be approved by referendum. The court will hear the case on May 17.

But Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid told Egypt's CBC television channel: "This land is Saudi and Egypt administered it based on a request from the kingdom and this door that spreads doubts, which have no foundation in truth, must be closed."

The island issue has put Egypt's ruler Sisi, who once enjoyed widespread support, under renewed pressure.

Once-fawning newspaper editors no longer hide their disappointment as the crackdown on dissent has spread and critics say the government has mishandled a series of crises including the killing of a driver by a policeman in a fare dispute.

Five of 11 people who held a protest against the accord in Cairo on Sunday were arrested and later freed, security and judicial sources said. Thousands of people have supported a Facebook campaign calling for protest on Friday "to protect our country."

"Even if Saudi Arabia is entitled to the islands ... to hand them over to Saudi in this way, without consideration for Egyptians, showing no respect for their feelings, presence and even their pride in their nation?" television chat show host Wael El Ebrashy said on Sunday night. "We are all shocked."

Where it gets even more interesting is that Egypt's state-owned Al Ahram newspaper reported on Monday that Israel had been informed in advance about the treaty, as it is entangled in a 1979 peace deal with Israel. Many Egyptians were upset their government thought of Israel but not them.

What is emerging is that a new geopolitical triangle appears to be emerging, one of Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt? And now, perphaps, Turkey, all on the same side. On the other? Iran, Syria and whatever allies the two can cobble together.

Suddenly the balance of power in the Middle East is looking very precarious once again.