CAIRO - Egypt’s parliament approved a treaty ceding sovereignty over two uninhabited Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, House of Representatives Speaker Ali Abdelaal said on Wednesday.

The treaty must now be ratified by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a formality.

Sisi’s government last year announced a maritime demarcation agreement with Saudi Arabia, which has given billions of dollars of aid to Egypt, ceding control of the islands of Tiran and Sanafir to the Gulf kingdom.

A key parliamentary committee had already unanimously backed the plan and referred it to parliament for a final vote before it can be ratified by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, its chairman told journalists.

Sisi’s government last year announced a maritime demarcation agreement with Saudi Arabia, which has given billions of dollars of aid to Egypt, ceding control of the islands of Tiran and Sanafir to the Gulf kingdom.

“We have unanimously approved the maritime demarcation accord with Saudi Arabia and it will be voted on in the general session today,” said House of Representatives Committee on Defence and National Security Chairman Kamal Amer.

Some members of the committee who did not attend the meeting on Wednesday criticized the decision to approve the accord.

The transfer plan triggered rare street protests last year from many Egyptians, who say their country’s sovereignty over the islands dates back to a treaty from 1906, before Saudi Arabia was founded.

Dozens of protesters gathered in downtown Cairo on Tuesday evening and organizers said a handful were briefly detained.

The Egyptian and Saudi governments say the islands are Saudi but have been subject to Egyptian protection since 1950 at the request of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz Al Saud.

The treaty has also been referred to the courts, irritating Riyadh and raising tensions between two major Arab states and traditional allies.

Egypt’s highest administrative court blocked the deal but parliament insists the matter is constitutionally within its domain, putting the legislature and the judiciary at odds.

A government report advising parliament on the terms of the agreement said Egypt would keep administrative control over the islands and Egyptians would not need visas to visit them if they were transferred to Saudi Arabia.