A senior Saudi Arabian official apparently confirmed media reports on Friday that the government is considering the building of a canal that would turn the Qatar peninsula into an island.
“As a citizen, I am impatiently and eagerly waiting for the details of the implementation of the East Salwa Island project,” wrote Saud Al-Qahtani on Twitter. “This great historic project will change the region’s geography.”
Al-Qahtani is an adviser of Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman. He has already talked about the project on Twitter over the past few months, but Friday’s tweet was the clearest indication so far of an initiative which opponents dismiss as a PR exercise intended to intimidate Qatar rather than being a serious plan.
Earlier media statements indicated that the canal project would be funded by the UAE and Saudi authorities, with Egyptian companies doing the work, having had similar experience from expanding the Suez Canal. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain all cut diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar in June last year, when air, land and sea traffic was all suspended. The small Gulf State was accused by the group of supporting terrorism. Qatar continues to deny the allegation and said that the boycott was merely an attempt to infringe upon its sovereignty.
The proposed canal will be around 60 kilometres in length from the Salwa area to Khor Al-Adid along the east coast of Saudi Arabia. It will be entirely within Saudi territory, about one kilometre from the official border with Qatar, where a military base will be built on the land between the border and what will be called the “Salwa Marine Canal”. Other land in the border zone will, it is claimed, be used as a dump for nuclear waste from a reactor that the Saudi Arabia government is planning to build.
According to Saudi newspapers, the project is awaiting official authorisation. The budget is said to be 2.8 billion riyals ($746 million), and the canal is expected to take 12 months to build.