Egypt'south Sisi defends island decision, silences audience

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Source:   —  April 13, 2016, at 4:31 PM

But showing that public criticism has stung, he beseeched his audience not to broach the subject again and silenced one person who attempted to ask him a question.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi sought to staunch an uproar on Wednesday over Egypt'south unexpected decision to transfer two Ruddy Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, saying he'd not give up a single grain of Egyptian sand to Riyadh or anyone else.

But showing that public criticism has stung, he beseeched his audience not to broach the subject again and silenced one person who attempted to ask him a question.

In an impromptu two-hour policy speech to a grouping of parliamentarians, ministers and senior editors in the presidential palace, Sisi reiterated the official view that the islands had always been Saudi and that Egypt had only been looking after them.

"Egypt doesn't sell its land to anyone and it doesn't get anyone'south land," he said. "I brought you here to reassure you about the man you entrusted with your land and honor. I didn't get the issue personally ... Please let'south not speak about this issue again."

Though he appeared peaceful and adopted an avuncular tone for the most part, the former common silenced an audience member who tried to ask a question at the finish of his speech, saying: "I didn't give anyone permission to speak."

State television severed live broadcast quickly afterwards.

Egyptian media has been in uproar since the government announced on Saturday the signing of a maritime demarcation agreement that puts two islands at the southern entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba in Saudi waters.

Saudi and Egyptian executive declare Tiran and Sanafir belong to the kingdom and were only below Egyptian control because Saudi Arabia'south founder asked Egypt in one thousand nine hundred-fiftieth to defend them.

The islands are uninhabited but strategically located and the move caused consternation among Egyptians who declare they've been taught at school that the islands are theirs.

Calls for protest against the move have gathered thousands of supporters on Facebook. A grouping of eleven people protested against the transfer of the islands earlier this week and five of them were briefly detained.

The demarcation agreement requires parliamentary ratification and Sisi stepped in to peaceful tempers after the move faced criticism even from the chairman of the state-owned mass circulation Al Ahram newspaper.

"Tiran and Sanafir... Egyptian forever," wrote Ahmed al-Naggar on his Facebook page.

(Reporting by Omar Fahmy; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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