Saudi King Salman orders Qatar border to open to Hajj pilgrims

Saudi Arabia will open its land border with Qatar to allow Hajj pilgrims to pass through, in the first step forward since the diplomatic crisis began

Qatari authorities had accused Saudi Arabia of politicising hajj and jeopardising the pilgrimage to Mecca
Qatari authorities had accused Saudi Arabia of politicising hajj and jeopardising the pilgrimage to Mecca

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has ordered that the border with Qatar be reopened to allow pilgrims to carry out their annual hajj pilgrimage to Makkah, official state media said on Thursday.

A statement on the official Saudi Press Agency said the Salwa border point would be open for Qatari citizens who wish to perform the annual pilgrimage to pass through with no electronic permissions needed.

The statement added that Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has invited Qatari pilgrims to perform this year's Hajj pilgrimage at his expense, ordering private jets belonging to Saudi airlines to be sent to Doha airport.

The border decision came after the kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman received an envoy from Doha, according to a statement from the Saudi News Agency.

The decision represents the first step forward since a diplomatic crisis began when Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates severed diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar on 5 June, accusing Doha of supporting "terrorism".

The Salwa border crossing had been shut as the four Arab allies shut down air, maritime and land links with Qatar, and imposed economic sanctions.

Qatar denies the accusations.

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

Qatar's National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) demanded on Saturday that Saudi Arabia lift all land and air restrictions on Qatar-based pilgrims traveling to Mecca for the Hajj pilgrimage.

The crown prince emphasised the “historical relations between Saudi and Qatari people, and between the Saudi leadership and the royal family in Qatar”, the statement added.

Jeddah is the airport hub for pilgrims travelling to Mecca and Medina to perform the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

Under the same royal directive, Qatari citizens will also be transported to Mecca from King Fahad airport and Ihsaa airport in the east of the country. 

There has been no reaction yet by Qatar's government to the announcement. 

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