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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Plans to connect Qatar and Saudi by rail ‘back on track’

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Not too long ago, Saudi Arabia had threatened to dig a canal in a bid to geographically isolate Qatar, after it failed to do so politically.

Relations between Qatar and Saudi Arabia seem to be strengthening and progressing at a fast pace a year after the signing of the Al-Ullah decleration which brought about the end of the GCC Crisis.

Transport ministers from both countries met in Doha last week to discuss the establishment of a rail link that would connect the two nations and their people, Qatar’s Minister of Transport, Jassim Al-Sulaiti and his Saudi counterpart Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser held additional discussions regarding aspects of cooperation in the fields of transportation, civil aviation, ports, as well as railways.

The proposed rail link project was expected to be launched back in 2016 before it was abandoned due to the diplomatic crisis between the two states. Since then, Qatar has made several changes to strengthen its economic and political ties.

“The idea is of great importance on political, economic, and social levels. Especially when it comes to deepening the integration and intra connection between the GCC states in general” said Dr. Ali Bakir, Assistant Professor at Qatar University’s Ibn Khaldon Centre. Since the reconciliation, several initiatives have been taken to improve state relationships.

Dr. Ali further added, “The 2017 gulf crisis showed that ideas can be easily sabotaged due to political disputes. Now that the crisis is not there, there is a possibility to resume such projects and Saudi Arabia would like to lead such initiatives. However, to what extent can this project be executed successfully remains to be seen”.

Aside from their meeting last Thursday, the two ministers accompanied by other officials also visited the Doha metro project where they inspected operations and were briefed on features of the project by officials from the Qatar railways company.

Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest sources of tourism for Qatar, with thousands of people crossing the Salwa border crossing on a weekly basis. Many based in Doha too make the journey in the opposite direction, either to visit relatives or fulfil the religious pilgrimages of Umrah or Hajj.

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