Saudi plan to turn Qatar into island

The plan, which would physically separate the Qatari peninsula from the Saudi mainland, is the latest stress point in a dispute between the two states.
The plan, which would physically separate the Qatari peninsula from the Saudi mainland, is the latest stress point in a dispute between the two states. PHOTO: AFP

RIYADH • A Saudi official has hinted that the kingdom was moving forward with a plan to dig a canal that would turn the neighbouring Qatari peninsula into an island, amid a diplomatic feud between the Gulf 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," Mr Saud al-Qahtani, a senior adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, said on Twitter last Friday.

The plan, which would physically separate the Qatari peninsula from the Saudi mainland, is the latest stress point in a highly fractious 14-month long dispute between the two states.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar in June last year, accusing it of supporting terrorism and being too close to Riyadh's archrival, Iran - charges that Doha denies.

In April, the pro-government Sabq news website reported government plans to build a channel - 60km long and 200m wide - stretching across the kingdom's border with Qatar. Part of the canal, which would cost up to 2.8 billion riyals (S$1 billion), would be reserved for a planned nuclear waste facility.

Five unnamed companies that specialise in digging canals had been invited to bid for the project and the winner will be announced in September, the Makkah newspaper reported in June.

The Saudi authorities did not respond to requests for comment and there was no immediate reaction on the plan from Qatar.

After the dispute erupted last year, Qatar - a small peninsula nation - found its only land border closed, its state-owned airline barred from using its neighbours' airspace, and Qatari residents expelled from the boycotting countries. Mediation efforts led by Kuwait and the United States, which has its largest Middle East air base in Qatar, have so far failed to resolve the dispute.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 02, 2018, with the headline 'Saudi plan to turn Qatar into island'. Print Edition | Subscribe