Salwa Canal is a warning to Doha

The canal is planned to be 200 metres wide and 20 metres deep.
Sunday 15/04/2018
A map showing the location of Saudi Arabia's planned Salwa border crossing.

LONDON - There is mounting concern in Doha about Saudi Arabia’s plans to dig a 60km canal along the Saudi-Qatari border between Salwa and Khor al Adaid.

Should the project be completed, Qatar would effectively be turned into an island, cut off from the Arabian Peninsula. Saudi media reported that steps have been taken to implement the project, including the evacuation of passport and customs administration at the Salwa border crossing. Those personnel were replaced with border guards.

If Saudi Arabia proceeds with the canal, it will reportedly be completed in 12 months. The canal is planned to be 200 metres wide and 20 metres deep, with the project expected to cost less than $1 billion.

Ancillary projects are planned along the canal, including opening a maritime route, the creation of resorts with private beaches, quays and yacht marinas as well as the oil-related activities and other industrial projects.

Gulf sources said the timing of the project indicates that Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, which are boycotting the Qatari regime over its alleged support for Islamist groups and ties to Iran, concluded that Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and his government do not intend to reverse their political choices. They have opted to look for solutions to the crisis outside the framework proposed by the boycotting countries.

The Qatari regime has been involved in a major diplomatic campaign, trying to convince major international powers, especially the United States, to pressure the boycotting countries to negotiate with Qatar. The Trump administration, however, has shown more support for the boycotting quartet, which said its actions against Doha were self-defence and taken out of concern for regional security and stability.

UAE State Minister for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash, in a series of postings on Twitters, said, regardless of the development of the projected Salwa Canal, the project is “proof of Qatar’s failure in managing and resolving its crisis… Focusing on provoking the four [boycotting] countries and opting for escalation have complicated Doha’s position. It is time to reverse the bad choices and go back to reason.”

“Let Qatar reconsider the roots of the crisis,” Gargash added. “It won’t do to wipe out years of plotting, betrayal and backstabbing with a simple signature. Now that the choices are dead serious, it is time for Qatar to set its indecisiveness aside and seriously consider the principles for the solution and the demands of the four countries.”

He pointed out that “Doha’s losses, whether moral, material or sovereign, will seem modest next to a real geographical isolation.”

“Doha’s silence about the canal project is a sign of fear and confusion,” Gargash said on Twitter.