Saudi Arabia and its United Arab Emirates ally are reportedly planning to turn the region along the border they share with Qatar into a nuclear waste dump, further deepening the rift between the countries.
Last year, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt cut trade and diplomatic ties with their fellow Sunni-majority nation Qatar due to Doha’s alleged ties to Shiite Iran, a U.S.-designated state-sponsor of terrorism, and jihadists groups.
Qatar denies the accusations.
The Associated Press (AP) describes the proposed nuclear project as “a new low in the 10-month-old feud between” the Sunni nations.
Citing state-linked Saudi news outlets Sabq and al-Riyadh, AP reports:
Saudi Arabia could consider a proposal to dig a maritime canal along the kingdom’s border with Qatar, turning the peninsula-nation into an island and transforming its only land border into a military zone and nuclear waste site.
The project has not been given official approval and faces many obstacles.
[U]nder the proposal, Saudi Arabia would transform part of its side of the border with Qatar into a military base and another area would become a dump site for waste from nuclear reactors the kingdom wants to build.
Sabq reports that the UAE also plans to build a nuclear waste dump “at the closest point to Qatar on the Emirati border,” Bloomberg notes.
The Sabq online newspaper report reveals that the project would involve digging a nearly 38-mile canal, “measuring 200 meters wide and up to 20 meters deep, running the entire length of the strip of Saudi territory that borders Qatar,” adds Bloomberg.
Saudi Arabia’s Center for International Communication did not immediately respond to Bloomberg’s request for comment.
However, the UAE “appeared to confirm the canal project, with Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash tweeting that Qatar’s ‘silence on the canal project is proof of their fear and confusion,’” the U.S.-based news agency notes.
The $750 million project, which private Saudi and Emirati investors would finance, is reportedly awaiting licensing with construction expected to be completed within a year of approval.
News reports of the project come as the Saudis are negotiating “a nuclear power deal” with the U.S. “that might allow Riyadh to enrich and reprocess uranium in exchange for choosing U.S. companies to build reactors in the kingdom,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported in February, adding:
The Associated Press, Bloomberg, and other media reported on February 26 that the Saudis are pressing to include such advanced nuclear capabilities as part of a deal to establish a civilian nuclear power program, pointing to the official blessing given to Iran in its 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers, which allowed Tehran to continue limited enrichment activities in connection with its nuclear energy program.
Saudi officials argue that a nuclear-armed Shiite Iran would force the Sunni kingdom to follow suit.