Amid its bitter diplomatic standoff with Doha, Saudi Arabia is reportedly working on a project to construct a maritime channel along the border with Qatar, practically turning the peninsula into an island.
Saudi daily Sabq reported on Thursday that the Saudi plan is yet to receive official approval.
A consortium of nine local firms is involved in the construction of the waterway that extends from Saudi Arabia’s Salwa region to Qatar’s Khawr Al-Udayd inlet, the report said.
The channel, which is capable of handling all kinds of vessels, is 60 kilometers long, 200 meters wide and between 15-20 meters deep, it added.
The preliminary cost of the maritime channel is projected as nearly 2.8 billion Saudi riyals ($750m). Its construction is also expected to take 12 months.
Meanwhile, a one kilometer stretch of land in the Saudi territory north of the channel would become a “military zone,” according to the report.
It further claimed that the project is meant to activate tourism in the region, with the construction of five hotels and two new harbors along the waterway.
However, observers say it is part of the Riyadh regime’s attempts to further isolate Qatar.
Social media users took to Twitter to criticize the Saudi plan, with the Arabic hashtag #SalwaMaritimeChannel being the number-one trending topic in both Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Last June, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and the UAE imposed a land, naval and air blockade on import-dependent Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism, an allegation strongly denied by Doha.
The Saudi-led quartet presented Qatar with a list of demands and gave it an ultimatum to comply with them or face consequences.
Doha, however, refused to meet the demands and stressed that it would not abandon its independent foreign policy.
US, UAE ‘pushing for Persian Gulf unity’
The controversial Saudi plan comes amid claims by the US and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that they are working on a rapprochement between the Persian Gulf Arab countries.
The White House said in a statement that US President Donald Trump and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed had agreed on regional unity during a phone conversation.
The two leaders agreed that members of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) “can and should do more to increase coordination with each other and with the United States,” the statement read.
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