Jul 25 2011
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Egypt reviews planned bridge with Saudi Arabia
CAIRO - Egypt and Saudi Arabia plan to build one of the longest bridges in the world that would link the Kingdom with the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, with the hope that the $4.5 billion project will boost commerce, pilgrimages and political ties between them.
The causeway would link Tabuk to the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh on the Sinai Peninsula and would pass through Tiran Island at the entrance of the Gulf of Aqaba.
Egypt has begun studies once again on a new massive bridge connecting the two countries on the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea.
A spokesman for the Saudi government had told the German newspaper Spiegel earlier that"we won't let anyone discourage us from our construction plans. The Strait of Tiran lies in international waters."
The 32-km (19.88 miles)-long causeway that will take three years to complete, is currently back in focus as the two countries reexamine the process in order to work out the details, Mohamed Gameel, an official at Egypt's Ministry of Transport said. Driving time is 22 minutes.
It will span the Gulf of Aqaba across the narrow Strait of Tiran, between Ras Hamid in northwestern Saudi Arabia and Sharm El-Sheikh.
Each year, about 1.5 million Egyptians visit Saudi Arabia and 750,000 Saudis head the other way, many for business or holidays.
The bridge would not only connect the two countries, but it would also mean new partnerships for Egypt at a time when the country's policies are changing to adapt to demands of a people's revolt, said Alan Fraser, Middle East analyst at AKE Group.
"Economic integration of any kind is likely to improve relations, and this move could be a sign of closer diplomatic relations in the future," he said.
"By turning down potential loan deals with the IMF and World Bank, while accepting funding from a number of GCC states, the interim Egyptian regime appears keen to transfer some of its financial reliance to its neighbors in the Gulf."
Alaa Ezz, secretary general of the Federation of Egyptian Chambers, said "we are still at the pre-feasibility stage studying the economic aspects and seismic details of the project."
While its foundation is still far from being physically laid out, Ezz said the new causeway could be a breakthrough for both countries.
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