Saudi-Egyptian agreement on land bridge denied
News that Egypt and Saudi Arabia plan to build a bridge spanning the Red Sea made the rounds today, despite Egyptian officials in Saudi Arabia denying approval of the project stating the issue had not been addressed, directly or indirectly, during any meetings between the two sides.
According to one Egyptian official, “there are priorities more important to Egypt under the circumstances, and such a project requires an agreement in principle of the demarcation of the maritime boundary between the two countries in this vital and complex region.”
According to German news source, Spiegel, officials at the Egyptian Ministry of Transportation finally approved plans to build a bridge that has been under discussion since 1988. Egyptian Prime Minister Sharaf, allegedly placed General Abdul Aziz, chairman of the Arab Road Association, in charge of overseeing the project.
The bridge is projected to cost about $5 billion and would span 32 kilometers across the Strait of Tiran from Ras Nasrani, near the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, to Ras Hamid in northwestern Saudi Arabia. The bridge would bolster both countries’ tourist and trade industries by creating a new route for trade, tourists and pilgrims. Current Saudi investments in Egypt total over $10 billion with bilateral trade at over $3.5 billion annually.
The bridge, initially conceived of in 1988, was again discussed in 2006 after an Egyptian ferry sank in the middle of the Red Sea, killing more than 1,012 passengers. However, the project was ultimately scrapped on concerns that the bridge would either be used as a transit route by terrorists or subject to a terrorist attack.
For the first time since the establishment of Israel in 1948, Arab states in North Africa would have a direct road link with Arab states in the Middle East.