The tiny gulf nation of Qatar faces the prospect of becoming an island under reported plans by its only neighbour – Saudi Arabia – to dig a canal along the border between the two countries.
The nations have been locked in a bitter political feud since June 2017, after the Saudis, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain severed their ties with Qatar, accusing the small emirate of supporting terrorism.
Just days ago, a senior Saudi official appeared to signal his support for a reported plan by Saudi Arabia to dig the border canal. Saud al-Qahtani, a senior adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, offered the clearest indication yet of his support for the idea.
“As a citizen, I am impatiently waiting for the details of the implementation of the East Salwa island project, this great historic project that will change the region’s geography,” al-Qahtani wrote on Twitter.
Rumours of the plan have circulated since April, when state-linked Saudi newspapers Sabq and al-Riyadh reported the kingdom was investigating digging the 60-kilometre canal.
The Salwa Marine Canal would be dug inside Saudi territory, with a one-kilometre trip of Saudi land left alongside the Qatari border.
Sabq reported the canal project was intended to open up shipping channels and bolster tourism. However, in June, Dubai’s Gulf News reported that the new Saudi-Qatar border strip would be used to establish a military base and as a dump for nuclear waste.
Other reports claimed the UAE, a close ally of Saudi Arabia’s, intended to build its own nuclear waste site as close as possible to Qatar.
Qatar has been embroiled in a regional feud for more than a year. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt all accuse it of supporting Islamist groups in the area and cosying up to Iran.
They cut off diplomatic, trade and transport ties with Qatar in June 2017.
Qatari authorities are yet to comment on the matter.
The issue is expected to be raised when US President Donald Trump meets the emir of Kuwait at the White House on Wednesday.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Mr Trump’s meeting with Emir Sabah al Ahmed, who is the head of a delegation to discuss trade, investment and cooperation in security.
The US, which has one of its main regional military bases in Qatar, has previously tried unsuccessfully to resolve the conflict through mediation with Kuwait.