A senior aide to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia has dripped further hints that the country is planning to turn its Gulf rival Qatar into an island by digging a canal that will cut the peninsula off from the mainland.
The advisor appeared to confirm the Salwa Island project on Twitter as relations continue to deteriorate during a 14-month dispute between the two countries.
The £580 million canal would stretch the length of Qatar’s 37 mile border with Saudi Arabia and be 650 foot wide. Dug entirely within Saudi territory, it will leave a 0.6 mile sliver of land beside the Qatari border.
It has been reported that a new military base and a nuclear waste dump will be built as close to the Qatari border as possible but others claim the project is intended to open up shipping channels and “boost tourism”.
Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, the next host nation of the World Cup, in June last year and accused it of funding terrorism and being closely allied with Iran.
Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates also cut ties with Qatar, which found its land border closed, its state owned airline barred from its neighbours’ airspace and some of its nationals expelled.
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“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.
He had previously retweeted social media posts comparing the canal to an operation to remove “a malignant cancerous tumour” and another likening it to treating a wart.
Five companies have been invited to tender bids for the project that will separate the Qatari peninsula from the Saudi mainland. The successful canal-digging firm is expected to be announced in September, according to local media reports.
Saudi authorities did not respond to requests for comment and there was no immediate reaction on the plan from Qatar, a country that’s only land border is with Saudi.
When details of the plan emerged in June, Qataris were furious.
“Digging the Salwa Canal reminds me of the Battle of the Confederates when the Jews of Khaibar and the infidels of Quraish and their allies surrounded the Muslims in Medina,” tweeted Qatari writer Ahmed al-Sulaiti, referring to a battle between the Muslim prophet Muhammad’s forces and his enemies.
Qatar, a gas-rich country, depends on imports even for basic foodstuffs. Following the blockade it flew and shipped in thousands of cows to provide milk. It has also became increasingly reliant on Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional nemesis, and Turkey.
The US, which has its largest Middle East air base in Qatar, and Kuwait have led mediation efforts to resolve the long-running dispute but with no success so far.