Some Saudi Arabians have proposed a project to build a canal along the length of the Saudi-Qatari border, which would effectively turn Qatar from a peninsula into an island.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been embroiled in an ongoing economic and diplomatic standoff since June 2017. The tensions began when Saudi Arabia, along with three of its allies—Egypt, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates—implemented an air, sea, and land campaign to ban trade with the small Gulf state.
Saudi Arabia and its allies claim that the Qatari government supports terrorist organizations and is too friendly with Iran, a regional rival. Qatar has denied these allegations. Rather than accepting Saudi Arabia’s demands, Qatar has survived the boycott by strengthening commercial ties with Iran and Turkey.
The proposed Saudi canal project was published by Sabq, a Saudi newspaper. It is planned to be 200 meters (656 ft) wide and 20 meters (66 ft) deep, which would allow it to accommodate cargo, container, and passenger ships. It is also meant to be a tourist destination. The plan includes ports where cruise ships will be able to dock as well as multiple resorts. A consortium of nine firms is involved in the project, which is estimated to cost about $750 million and be completed in about one year.
The project has yet to be officially approved by the Saudi government. If the canal were to be constructed, it would serve as a physical barrier between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. This would effectively end trade between the two countries and allow shipping to completely bypass Qatar. Many analysts claim that such a modification of the Arabian peninsula is illegal under international law.
On April 5, Qatar confirmed that it has been officially invited to the Arab League summit, to be held in Riyadh on April 15. Despite the tensions between the two countries, Qatari officials have said they will participate in the summit.
“Qatar has received the invitation to participate in the Arab Summit, and will participate, but we have not yet decided the level of participation,” said Lulwa al-Khater, a spokesperson for Qatar’s foreign ministry. The ongoing Gulf crisis will not be on the agenda of the Arab League summit.