Middle East

Egypt court rules against handing islands to Saudi Arabia

  • Egyptian lawyer and former presidential candidate Khaled Ali celebrates after the Supreme Administrative Court said two islands, Sanafir and Tiran, are Egyptian, debunking the government's claim that they were Saudi, in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Jan. 16, 2017. An Egyptian court has ruled against the government's decision to hand over two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, a landmark verdict likely to deepen tension with the kingdom. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

    Egyptian lawyer and former presidential candidate Khaled Ali celebrates after the Supreme Administrative Court said two islands, Sanafir and Tiran, are Egyptian, debunking the government's claim that they were Saudi, in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Jan. 16, 2017. An Egyptian court has ruled against the government's decision to hand over two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, a landmark verdict likely to deepen tension with the kingdom. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)  (The Associated Press)

  • Prominent rights lawyer Malek Adly, shouts slogans after the Supreme Administrative Court said that two islands, Sanafir and Tiran, are Egyptian, debunking the government's claim that they were Saudi, in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Jan. 16, 2017. An Egyptian court has ruled against the government's decision to hand over two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, a landmark verdict likely to deepen tension with the kingdom.  (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

    Prominent rights lawyer Malek Adly, shouts slogans after the Supreme Administrative Court said that two islands, Sanafir and Tiran, are Egyptian, debunking the government's claim that they were Saudi, in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Jan. 16, 2017. An Egyptian court has ruled against the government's decision to hand over two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, a landmark verdict likely to deepen tension with the kingdom. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)  (The Associated Press)

  • Lawyer and former presidential candidate Khaled Ali, center, celebrates with others after the Supreme Administrative Court said two islands, Sanafir and Tiran, are Egyptian, debunking the government's claim that they were Saudi, in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Jan. 16, 2017. An Egyptian court has ruled against the government's decision to hand over two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, a landmark verdict likely to deepen tension with the kingdom. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

    Lawyer and former presidential candidate Khaled Ali, center, celebrates with others after the Supreme Administrative Court said two islands, Sanafir and Tiran, are Egyptian, debunking the government's claim that they were Saudi, in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Jan. 16, 2017. An Egyptian court has ruled against the government's decision to hand over two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, a landmark verdict likely to deepen tension with the kingdom. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)  (The Associated Press)

An Egyptian court has ruled against the government's decision to hand over two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia — a landmark verdict likely to deepen tensions with the kingdom.

Monday's ruling rejected the government's appeal against a lower court's decision to annul the handover agreement, signed in April.

The Supreme Administrative Court said the two islands, Sanafir and Tiran, are Egyptian, debunking the government's claim that they were Saudi.

The islands at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba control the narrow shipping lanes running north to the Red Sea port cities of Eilat and Aqaba, in Israel and Jordan.

The fate of the two islands has been at the heart of friction between Riyadh and Cairo over a string of regional issues, including Syria and Yemen.