Since the start of 2023, progress in ties between the two Gulf states appeared to warm.
A massive project connecting Qatar and Bahrain via a bridge is set to recommence, authorities confirmed, the latest sign in warming relations following years of political crisis.
The move was announced during a meeting between Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, who visited the kingdom over the weekend.
During the meeting, the two sides also instructed their respective authorities to complete plans and initiate the implementation phase, according to Doha’s news agency.
Crown Prince Salman and Sheikh Mohammed, who is also the Gulf country’s foreign minister, “discussed the project and directed the relevant authorities of both countries to finalise plans and commence project implementation,” the Bahrain News Agency said.
The focus of the high-level talks revolved around bolstering bilateral relations between Qatar and Bahrain across several sectors.
Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Bahrain Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa joined the discussions at Al Qudaibiya Palace, emphasising the importance of collaboration and exploring ways to further strengthen and develop the existing cooperation.
Qatar-Bahrain Bridge project
Plans to construct the bridge had stalled in 2017 when Bahrain joined Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt in severing ties with Qatar and imposing an illegal land, air and sea blockade on Doha.
The crisis was resolved in 2021 with the re-establishment of diplomatic trade and transportation ties between Doha and all four countries. However, while all parties of the crisis swiftly buried the hatchet with the signing of the Al Ula Declaration in 2021, relations between Doha and Manama had remained tense.
Qatari and Bahraini authorities announced the full restoration of diplomatic ties in April, following a second follow-up committee meeting in Riyadh. Since the start of 2023, ties between the two Gulf states appeared to warm.
In January, Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa met in Abu Dhabi, marking the second such meeting since the dispute erupted.
In February, Qatar and Bahrain’s foreign ministers met for the first time since the GCC crisis to “end the pending special files between them”.
With the recent restoration of diplomatic relations between Qatar and its neighbouring countries, the causeway project has been reactivated. Once completed, the bridge will stand as the longest permanent causeway globally.
The path, mirroring the King Fahd Causeway that connects Bahrain to Saudi Arabia, will link the northern region of Qatar to the eastern coast of Bahrain. Once finalised, the Qatar-Bahrain Causeway would essentially reduce the travel duration between Bahrain and Qatar from five hours to thirty minutes.
Spanning approximately 40 kilometers, the bridge comprises a dual two-lane highway, accompanied by a rail platform, featuring a total of four lanes, inclusive of emergency lanes in both directions.
Palestine on the agenda
The meeting saw the two sides also delve into regional and international issues, including the ever-escalating Israeli war on Gaza.
Both sides stressed the immediate cessation of hostilities in Gaza, pushing for the implementation of international decisions to establish an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, based on the borders of June 4, 1967, QNA said.
Since the start of the brutal Israeli war on Gaza on October 7, Israel has killed more than 12,000 Palestinians, including 4,710 children.
Bahrain said it expelled the Israeli ambassador to Manama and recalled its envoy from Tel Aviv early November, citing the ongoing Israeli war on Gaza.
In a statement, the Bahraini parliament said the moves were part of measures taken in support of “the Palestinian cause and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people”.
“We confirm the departure of the Israeli ambassador to the country, the return of the Bahrain ambassador from Israel, and the cessation of economic relations,” the statement read.
Bahrain normalised ties with Israel in 2020 as part of the controversial Abraham Accord, in which the UAE and Morocco also established relations.