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Can Qatar, Bahrain be BFF?

Can Qatar, Bahrain be BFF?

Given their long history of antagonism, Bahrain and Qatar need to build some bridges. Luckily, they’re doing just that, with the planned $3 billion ‘Friendship Bridge’ linking the two Gulf states.

March 15, 2010 4:55 by

Given their long history of antagonism and territorial spats, it’s fair to say that Bahrain and Qatar need to build some bridges.

They are, of course, doing just that – and on an unprecedented scale.

The two Gulf countries are moving ahead with a plan to construct of a 40km bridge to link their once disputed shores. On completion, it will be the world’s longest marine causeway; the estimated $3 billion cost will be split between the former enemies.

Antagonism between the two countries dates back to the eighteenth century, but came to a head in the 1930s when Britain – which then controlled both Bahrain and Qatar’s foreign affairs – stepped in to mediate a bitter row between the two.

As ever, British ‘mediation’ prompted an even longer, and more bitter, territorial dispute. Qatar demanded sovereignty the oil and gas-rich Hawar islands, which was officially controlled by Bahrain – an issue that almost led to an all-out war in 1986. In turn, Bahrain claimed sovereignty of Zubarah, a disputed town on the Qatari mainland which Britain had awarded to Doha.

In 1991, Qatar instituted proceedings over the Hawar islands issue at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. In what has been described as the court’s longest ever case, the dispute was solved in a ruling in 2001.

It’s little wonder, then, that the new causeway has been given the nickname ‘The Friendship Bridge’.
It is a project of grand ambition. Construction was due to begin in May 2008, but was put back to incorporate a rail link. The roadway – which is likely to be a tolled – is now scheduled to be completed in 2014, with the rail link following sometime after that.

According to Paul Corbett, deputy director of design management for the Qatar-Bahrain Causeway Management, travelling between the two emirates by rail will take less than an hour. “Journey times are anticipated to be less than air travel,” Corbett said earlier this year at the Rail Infrastructure Middle East Summit in Dubai. Corbett went on to say that such projects can help strengthen political ties between countries, as well as promoting economic and employment links between nations.

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