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28 November 2023

Bridge linking Bahrain, Qatar to go ahead

By Reuters

A long-planned 40-kilometre causeway linking Qatar, set to host soccer's 2022 World Cup, and the Gulf Arab island state of Bahrain will be built and the cost may need to be lowered, Bahrain's foreign minister said.

"It is a must for both countries, even without the World Cup," Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa told  reporters on Thursday, without giving a time-frame for the project.

"This is one economic market, one economic zone that should be well-connected, and the bridge is an integral part of that ... It is inevitable," he said.

Sources close to the project had said in June it would be delayed due to escalating costs and political wrangling between the countries.

Qatar's successful bid to host the World Cup may have provided new momentum. The bridge would help Qatar manage heavy traffic during the World Cup as nearby Bahrain could absorb some of the tourist inflow in its hotels.

Qatar plans to spend over $50 billion in infrastructure, including roads, commercial projects and airports ahead of the World Cup.

Sheikh Khalifa said pricing for the project, which will be split 50-50, would need to be reviewed, as the initial cost was set before the global economic crisis.

"The question is when, and at what cost ... It was initially priced at $3 billion, but we are trying to bring it down."

A joint Bahrain-Qatar committee meeting will take place next month, and progress will be discussed then, he said.

The causeway linking the world's top liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter Qatar to Bahrain was set to play a key role in improving infrastructure connections between members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), but has been beset by problems.

Tensions were stoked last year over Bahrain's nominee for Secretary General for the six-state GCC, Mohammad al-Mutawa.

Mutawa played an influential role in Bahrain's territorial dispute with Qatar over the Hawar islands, which the World Court awarded to Bahrain in 2001.

The bridge project, first announced in 2001, had already been delayed in 2008 to change the project scope to include trains, and late last year the countries said work would start in the first quarter and be completed by 2015.

Contractors for the project include French group Vinci, German company Hochtief, Qatari Diar Real Estate and Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC).