Qatar’s successful bid for the 2022 World Cup appears to be producing its first peace dividend. As part of its need to put infrastructure for the tournament in place, Qatar has revived plans to build a bridge to the Gulf island state of Bahrain. That may not sound like a big deal but relations between the two states have been troubled by disputes over territory and fishing rights.
Dubbed the ‘Friendship Bridge,’ Qatar and Bahrain first discussed plans to build the 40 kilometer-long bridge more than a decade ago. A 2001 International Court of Justice decision in the two Gulf states’ dispute over the Hawar Islands in favour of Bahrain did little to smooth feathers and put the bridge project back on track.
Qatar’s need to fill its stadia during the World Cup has however suddenly elevated its interest in building the $4 billion bridge to Bahrain, that is not only more populously, but is also linked to Saudi Arabia, the region’s powerhouse, by a causeway. The bridge will enable road traffic from the kingdom’s oil-rich eastern province to Qatar. Annually some 5 million Saudis use the causeway to visit Bahrain, a 45 minute drive from cities like Khobar or Dhahran.
"It is a must for both countries, even without the World Cup," said Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa said.
The bridge would enhance Bahrain’s access to Qatar, the world’s third largest natural gas producer, and strengthen its position as a regional transport hub.