Saudi Moves Forward With Plan to Turn Qatar Into Island

(Bloomberg) -- Saudi Arabia is moving forward with a plan to dig a canal that would physically enshrine its yearlong rift with Qatar by turning the emirate from a peninsula bordering the kingdom into an island, Saudi media reported on Tuesday.

Five international companies that specialize in digging canals have been invited to vie for the project, with bids closing on Monday and the winner to be chosen within 90 days, Makkah newspaper reported, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter. The canal should be completed within one year of work starting, it said. The report was also carried by Saudi-owned news channel Al Arabiya and shared on Twitter by Saudi royal court adviser Saud Al Qahtani.

The Saudi government’s Center for International Communication didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The government has never confirmed the plan, first reported in April.

The project, if it is carried out, would geographically extend Qatar’s isolation from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt after they cut trade and diplomatic ties with the emirate last year. The allies accused Qatar of supporting terrorism and meddling in their affairs, charges it denies.

In April, media reported that the channel would be 60 kilometers (37.5 miles) long and 200 meters (219 yards) wide, running the entire length of the strip of Saudi territory that borders Qatar. Part of the canal zone would be set aside for a planned nuclear waste facility, Al Riyadh newspaper reported, and Sabq online newspaper said the canal project could cost up to 2.8 billion riyals ($750 million).

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