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New constitution to enshrine Egypt's borders - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Members of Egypt's constitution committee meet at the Shura Council for the final vote on a draft Egyptian constitution in Cairo. (Reuters)

Members of Egypt’s constitution committee meet at the Shura Council for the final vote on a draft constitution in Cairo. (Reuters)

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—The geographical map of Egypt will be enshrined in the country’s new constitution as part of efforts to protect the North African state’s territorial integrity.

This move aims to preserve and protect Egypt’s geographical identity following rumors that maps printed during the era of Islamist former president Mohamed Mursi had been tampered with and did not include the southern areas of Hala’ib and Shalateen. The Hala’ib Triangle is a vast tract of disputed territory located on the Red Sea’s African coast between Egypt and Sudan. Sudan withdrew its forces from the area in 2000, ceding control of the border zone to Egypt.

Mursi’s administration was also beset by rumors that it intended to divide the Sinai Peninsula, allowing the establishment of an Islamic emirate to host a large number of Palestinians as an extension to the Gaza Strip.

The issue of Egypt’s geographical integrity has prompted the 50-member constitution-drafting committee to add the term “unity of the homeland” to the presidential oath of office.

Experts said it was very important for the map of Egypt, with all its territorial borders and features, to be enshrined in Egypt’s latest constitution in order to prevent political tampering.

The move to enshrine Egypt’s official map is the brainchild of Mohamed Abla, the representative for the Arts Syndicate to the 50-member constitution-drafting committee. He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “I made this proposal due to concerns about comments by strategists that there was a Muslim Brotherhood plan to tamper with Egypt’s geographical borders, which have remained stable since the days of the pharaohs.”

Abla added that he also proposed enshrining the design of the Egyptian flag in the constitution, and that this proposal was well received by the majority of committee members.

The drafting committee is in the process of voting on the constitutional amendments. Abla denied reports of divisions within the committee, particularly over the decision to hold the final vote behind closed doors.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The general atmosphere within the committee leans towards agreement. . . . This will help solve the remaining issues, which relate to the status of the army and judiciary in the constitution.”

The Arts Syndicate representative affirmed that culture holds a special place within Egypt’s new constitution. “Culture is a right, and the state works on delivering cultural services to the people and removing any obstacles in the way of such services,” Abla said.

He also revealed the draft includes an article that affirms the right to life, and a number of articles relating to personal and public freedoms and liberties, in addition to articles governing intellectual property.

Abla said: “We have now started the closed sessions to discuss the proposed articles one by one, listening to all opinions with an open mind in order to achieve the best for our country.”

Meanwhile, Mohamed Salmawy, spokesman for the 50-member committee, said voting on the articles will carry on until December 3, adding that a 75 percent majority is needed to pass each article.

Speaking in a television interview on Wednesday, Salmawy said: “There are some articles which have been delayed because of differences between members or because they were related to organizations outside the 50-member committee, such as the judiciary.”

“The 50-member committee and the public care for the armed forces and there are new changes in the articles related to the armed forces,” he added.

He revealed that “the constitutional selection method for the defense minister has not reached the final form,” and that “we added a section to the presidential oath, which [vows] ‘to preserve the unity and territorial integrity of the homeland.’”

In a related matter, Moussa denied that the armed forces or its representative in the 50-member committee had requested immunity for the defense minister. Moussa told the state Middle East News Agency (MENA) that “we do not have anything called immunity. Such talk has not been raised during the 50-member committee’s sessions or the discussions between the armed forces and the 50-member committee, and the truth is, there is a lot of misunderstanding and this kind of talk has not taken place at all.”