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Saudi Arabia refers to the plan to turn Qatar into an island

Saudi Arabia refers to the plan to turn Qatar into an island

RIYADH: A Saudi official hinted on Friday 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 spat between the Gulf nations.

“I am waiting impatiently for details on the implementation of the Salwa Island project, a great historical project that will change the geography of the region,” Saud al-Qahtani, the chief adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, said on Twitter.

The plan, which would physically separate the Qatar peninsula from the mainland of Saudi Arabia, is the last point of tension in a 14-month dispute between the two states.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut off diplomatic and trade relations with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of supporting terrorism and being too close to the arch rivals of Riyadh, Iran, accusations that Doha denies.

In April, the official pro-government website Sabq reported that the government’s plans to build a canal 60 kilometers (38 miles) long and 200 meters wide extend along the kingdom’s border with Qatar.

Part of the canal, which would cost up to 2,800 million rials ($ 750 million), would be reserved for a planned nuclear waste facility, he said.

Five anonymous companies that specialize in the excavation of canals were invited to submit bids for the project and the winner will be announced in September, the Makkah newspaper reported in June.

The Saudi authorities did not respond to the requests for comments and there was no immediate reaction in the Qatar plan.

After the dispute that broke out last year, Qatar, a small peninsular nation, found that its only land border was closed, its state airline banned the use of its neighbors’ airspace and expelled the residents of Qatar from the boycotting countries.

The mediation efforts led by Kuwait and the United States, which has its largest Middle East air base in Qatar, have so far not resolved the dispute.

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