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Google plans fiber-optic cable linking Israel and Saudi Arabia

Project would mark the latest sign of warming relations between the two historical enemies
The network will be more than 8,000km long and is expected to cost $400m (AFP)

Google is planning to deploy a fiber-optic network that will run through Saudi Arabia and Israel to open a new global internet traffic corridor, according to a US newspaper.

The network, which will connect India and Europe, would be Google’s newest cross-world infrastructure project, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, citing people familiar with the plans.

The underwater cable project has been dubbed Blue Raman by Google, which names most of its internet cables after scientists, in this case the Indian physicist Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman. 

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It will be more than 8,000km long and is expected to cost $400m, according to calculations by Salience Consulting, a Dubai-based communications company, cited in the WSJ report.

The move is the latest sign of warming relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, linking for the first time the two historical enemies that have no official diplomatic relations. 

Bahrain, the UAE and Sudan have already agreed to establish ties with Israel, breaking with a decades-old demand among Arab states that recognising Palestine was a necessary precursor to any deal with Israel.

'Pariah' state

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secretly flew to Saudi Arabia on Sunday to meet Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, according to Israeli media.

Sources told Haaretz that the overnight meeting took place in Neom, a flagship mega-project being built on the Red Sea, and that Mossad chief Yossi Cohen was also in attendance.

The visit marked the first known high-level meeting between an Israeli and a Saudi leader, though the two are reported to have met privately in the past.

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Google is expected to seek partners to finace the project, including Oman’s communications company and Telecom Italy, according to people familiar with the issue. 

They will both fund the construction and take part in the use of the fiber-optic infrastructure.

The project will need the approval of several regulatory bodies, as the cable will cross several borders.

Saudi Arabia is anticipating a less cordial relationship with incoming US President Joe Biden than it enjoyed with current President Donald Trump, who has been a driving force in establishing normalisation deals with Israel.

In 2019, Biden referred to Saudi Arabia as a "pariah" state and warned he would make the kingdom “pay the price” for the 2018 killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.

However, Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud has said he is "confident that a Biden administration would continue to pursue policies that are in the interest of regional stability".