Saudi Arabia threatens to make Qatar 'an island' with canal project

Saudi Arabia threatens to make Qatar 'an island' with canal project
Saudi Arabia is planning to build a canal along its land border with Qatar to make the emirate an island, a Saudi newspaper has claimed.
3 min read
07 April, 2018
Saudi Arabia is planning a channel on its border with Qatar, media have reported [AFP]

Saudi Arabia is considering building a canal across its border with Qatar, effectively making the peninsular state an island, a Saudi newspaper has claimed.

Sabq newspaper claimed that planners are still waiting for official permission to begin construction of a canal, but the project could be completed in just a year at a cost of $750 million.

Designs suggest it would be 60km in length, 200 metres wide and between 15 and 20 metres deep, cutting Qatar off from its southern neighbour.

The alleged maritime channel between the Salwa and Khawr al-Udayd regions of Saudi Arabia would effectively end land trade with Qatar and also allow shipping to bypass the emirate. 

Saudi Arabia launched a land, sea and air blockade on Qatar last June, along with its regional allies - the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt. The blockade has been widely condemned as illegal.

The canal project would appear to be an attempt to further tighten the blockade on Qatar and attempt to take trade away from the emirate. 

It would be able to handle tankers and container ships with plans to turn the area into a "unique" industrial and economic hub with a number of ports lining the waterway.

The newspaper also said there were plans for resorts along the banks of the canal and facilities to allow cruise ships to dock.

Bizarrely, the region would also include a military zone with a one kilometre exclusion zone running along the border with Riyadh's regional rival, Qatar.

"[The canal] will nullify all the land borders, and it will be purely Saudi territories for a length of 1km from the official border with the State of Qatar. This will make the terrestrial area adjacent to Qatar a military zone for protection and monitoring," Saudi Gazette reported.

The newspaper claims the project would cost $750 million and could be completed in just 12 months.

Most analysts view talk of the canal as a propaganda project for Riyadh. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have launched a sustained, but unsuccessful, media campaign against Qatar since the June blockade began.

Others have suggested that any attempt to redesign the geography of the Arabian Peninsula to isolate Qatar would be considered illegal under international law.

Qatar has rejected a series of demands made by the Saudi-led blockade, which includes closing media outlets such as Al Jazeera and London-based The New Arab.

Doha has called for dialogue to end the crisis, which has been shunned by Saudi Arabia and its partners.

Analysts view the blockade as an attempt to force Qatar to come under Saudi Arabia-UAE tutelage and end its independent foreign policy. 

Last year, a museum in the UAE faced criticism and ridicule after displaying a map of the Gulf region that excluded Qatar.