Sun, Sep 02, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Continuing feud, Saudi Arabia hints at Qatar island plan

AFP, RIYADH

A Saudi official on Friday hinted that the kingdom was moving forward with a plan to dig a canal that would turn the neighboring Qatari peninsula into an island, amid a diplomatic feud between the Persian 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,” Saud al-Qahtani, a senior adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, said on Twitter.

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 Doha denies.

In April, the Sabq news Web site reported Saudi 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 (US$750 million), would be reserved for a planned nuclear waste facility, it said.

Five unnamed companies that specialize in digging canals had been invited to bid for the project and the winner is to be announced this month, Makkah newspaper reported in June.

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 neighbors’ airspace and Qatari residents expelled from the boycotting countries.

Mediation efforts led by Kuwait and the US, which has its largest Middle East air base in Qatar, have so far failed to resolve the dispute.

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