Saudi Arabia eyes up canal border idea, turning Qatar from a peninsula into an island
A proposal to dig a canal along the length of the Saudi-Qatari border has emerged, in the latest surprising twist in the ongoing diplomatic and economic standoff between the two countries.
In early June 2017, Saudi Arabia was one of four countries (alongside Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE) to impose a boycott on most trade and transport links with Qatar. Their complaints – strongly denied by Qatar – included claims that their small but extremely wealthy neighbour had been interfering in their domestic affairs, supporting terrorist groups and drawing too close to Iran.
If the four states were hoping for a quick capitulation by Doha, they have been disappointed. Qatar has managed to weather the storm, not least by developing new commercial ties with the likes of Oman, Iran and Turkey. Its success in circumventing the trade restrictions led the IMF to note in early March that “the direct economic and financial impact of the diplomatic rift between Qatar and some countries in the region is fading.”
Now, however, some in Saudi Arabia appear to want to draw – or rather dig – a line in the sand, creating a permanent physical barrier between the two countries and essentially turning the Qatari peninsula into an island.