Saudi Arabia hints at plan to turn Qatar into island

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Saudi Arabia hints at plan to turn Qatar into island

Riyadh: A Saudi official has hinted that the kingdom is moving forward with a plan to dig a canal that may turn 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,” Saud al-Qahtani, a senior adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, tweeted on 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, The News International reported.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of supporting terrorism and being too close to Riyadh´s archrival, Iran.

Doha denied the charges.

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 $750 million, would be reserved for a planned nuclear waste facility, it said.

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

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 nations.

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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