A senior Saudi official Friday hinted at the possibility of the Saudi Kingdom digging a canal to separate the Qatari peninsula from the mainland, and turning it into an Island. The plan to geographically isolate Qatar is the latest stress point in a fractious 14-month long dispute between the two nations.
“I am impatiently waiting for details on the implementation of the Salwa island project, a great, historic project that will change the geography of the region,” Saud al-Qahtani, a senior adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, said on Twitter.
According to news agency AFP, the Saudi government’s plan to construct a channel across the nation’s border was first reported on Sabq, a news website close to the government in April this year. The report stated that the construction of the channel — 60 km long, 200 metres wide and 20 metres deep — would cost up to 2.8 billion riyals ($750 million.)
It would be reserved for a planned nuclear waste facility, the report added.
In June, Makkah newspaper reported that five unnamed companies, specialising in digging canals, were invited to bid for the project. The newspaper further added that the winning bid would be announced by September.
So far there has been no official word on the project from the Saudi authorities.
In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirate (UAE) collectively ended diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar, accusing the peninsular Arab country of funding terrorism — a charge Doha vehemently denied saying the boycott was nothing but an attempt to impinge on its sovereignty.
Qatar is also accused of being too close to Saudi’s archrival, Iran.
In addition, the host nation of the next football World Cup found itself barred from using its neighbours’ airspace and its residents being expelled from the boycotting countries.
On June 22, 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain issued Qatar a list of 13 demands through Kuwait, which acted as a mediator. The demands included curbing diplomatic ties with Iran, sever all ties with ‘terrorist organisations’ and handing over ‘terrorist figures’. It also demanded a clamp down on news outlet Al Jazeera, amongst others.
Mediation efforts led by Kuwait and the US have so far failed to resolve the dispute.
(With Inputs from agencies)