Europe

Egypt's president defends giving Red Sea Islands to Saudi

  • FILE -- In this March 15, 2015 file photo, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi speaks during the final day of a major economic conference that has injected billions of dollars' worth of aid and investment in his country, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. In comments broadcast live, El-Sissi on Wednesday, April 13, 2016, sought to defuse a storm of opposition kicked off by his government's declared intention to hand over control of two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, arguing that he did not surrender Egyptian territory. He went on to complain that the Egyptians' chronic distrust of their leaders was pushing the country to "national suicide." (AP Photo/Thomas Hartwell, File)

    FILE -- In this March 15, 2015 file photo, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi speaks during the final day of a major economic conference that has injected billions of dollars' worth of aid and investment in his country, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. In comments broadcast live, El-Sissi on Wednesday, April 13, 2016, sought to defuse a storm of opposition kicked off by his government's declared intention to hand over control of two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, arguing that he did not surrender Egyptian territory. He went on to complain that the Egyptians' chronic distrust of their leaders was pushing the country to "national suicide." (AP Photo/Thomas Hartwell, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • Activists shout slogans against Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi during a protest against the decision to hand over control of two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia outside the Press Syndicate building, in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, April 13, 2016. Arabic reads, "Red Sea islands Sanafir and Tiran are Egyptian, whatever el-Sissi and Saudis say." and referring to the King of Saudi Arabia "Al Saud stole the land." (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

    Activists shout slogans against Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi during a protest against the decision to hand over control of two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia outside the Press Syndicate building, in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, April 13, 2016. Arabic reads, "Red Sea islands Sanafir and Tiran are Egyptian, whatever el-Sissi and Saudis say." and referring to the King of Saudi Arabia "Al Saud stole the land." (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)  (The Associated Press)

  • Activists shout slogans against Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi during a protest against the decision to hand over control of two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, outside the Press Syndicate building in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, April 13, 2016. Arabic reads, "Red Sea islands Sanafir and Tiran are Egyptians, whatever el-Sissi and Saudis said." (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

    Activists shout slogans against Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi during a protest against the decision to hand over control of two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, outside the Press Syndicate building in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, April 13, 2016. Arabic reads, "Red Sea islands Sanafir and Tiran are Egyptians, whatever el-Sissi and Saudis said." (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)  (The Associated Press)

Egypt's president has defended his country's declared intention to hand over control over two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, in a televised address Wednesday, says Egypt did not surrender its territory but "restored" the rights of the Saudis.

Egypt's government maintains that the islands of Tiran and Sanafir at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba belong to Saudi Arabia, which asked Egypt in 1950 to protect them from Israel.

Israel captured the islands in the 1967 Middle East war, but handed them back to Egypt under the provisions of the 1979 peace treaty.

Cairo's decision to transfer custody of the islands to Saudi Arabia, which must be ratified by parliament, has kicked off a storm of protest in Egypt.