Middle East

Saudi Arabia opens border with Qatar for hajj pilgrims

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has ordered the reopening of the land border with Qatar to facilitate the annual hajj pilgrimage, the Saudi Press Agency reports.

The border was shut as part of sanctions in the middle east diplomatic coalition against Qatar.

The Salwa border crossing had been shut after Saudi Arabia,along with Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, severed diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar on 5 June, accusing the emirate of supporting Islamist extremist groups.

The announcement to reopen the border for Qatari pilgrims came after the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, received an envoy from Doha, according to the Saudi Press Agency, in the first high-level public encounter between the nations since the crisis erupted.

The king has permitted “the entry of Qatari pilgrims to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through Salwa border crossing to perform hajj, and to allow all Qatari nationals who wish to enter for hajj without electronic permits”, a statement on SPA said.

He ordered that private jets belonging to Saudi airlines be sent to Doha airport “to bring all Qatari pilgrims on his expenses”.

The crown prince had emphasised the “historical relations between Saudi and Qatari people” after his meeting with Qatar’s Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali bin Abdullah bin Jassim al-Thani, the statement said.

Saudi Arabia had last month said that Qataris wanting to perform hajj would be allowed to enter the kingdom, but imposed certain restrictions including that those arriving by plane must use airlines in agreement with Riyadh.

Qatari authorities subsequently accused Saudi Arabia of politicising hajj and jeopardising the pilgrimage to Mecca by refusing to guarantee their pilgrims’ safety.

 

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