By P.K. ABDUL GHAFOUR
Published: Dec 25, 2010 23:20 Updated: Dec 25, 2010 23:20
JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has stepped up efforts to open its first land border point with Oman in 2012 by constructing 592 km of road through the Empty Quarter, one of the largest deserts in the world. “We have completed 89 percent of the road project,” said Transport Minister Jabara Al-Seraisry.
The road project, linking the two GCC neighbors, began in 2007 to construct 750 km of road. Diverted from the Khorais-Bathaa Road, the new road passes through Shayba and Umm Zamoul.
The new border point will boost tourism and economic ties.
Oman is strategically located on the Straits of Hormuz and oversees the maritime traffic through the straits. About 20-30 oil tankers traverse per day through the straits, one of the world's major waterways and the busiest in maritime activities.
At present Oman has only one border point with the United Arab Emirates. Those who want to go to Oman from Saudi Arabia have to pass by the UAE. The roadway to Oman is constructed through the Empty Quarter, one of the largest sand deserts in the world, encompassing most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula. The desert covers some 650,000 square kilometers (250,000 square miles).
Saudi Arabia and Oman agreed to establish the border point in 2006 to strengthen bilateral relations.
According to an official statement issued after talks between Second Deputy Premier and Minister of Interior Prince Naif and his Omani counterpart Saud Al-Bousaeedi on Dec. 3, 2006, the border point was to be operational by 2008. But the construction of the road project delayed the opening.
The border point will be called the Rub Al-Khali (Empty Quarter) Entry Point on the Saudi side and Ramlat Khaliya entry point on the Omani side. "All measures have been taken by relevant agencies in both countries to establish the border point facilities, pave the roads and build other installations," the statement said.
Saudi Arabia occupies 80 percent of the Arabian Peninsula and Oman occupies the southeastern corner of the peninsula. Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE border Oman on the west.
Saudi Arabia and Oman are major players in the Gulf Cooperation Council. Apart from strong family and religious bonds, the two countries maintain strong political, economic, cultural and trade relations