Saudi Arabia to open border for Qatari pilgrims, state media report

Jon Howard
August 18, 2017

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

Saudi's King Salman also offered to dispatch private jets to transport pilgrims from Qatar to Jeddah.

Saudi state TV said already 100 Qataris had arrived at the border crossing today. Of them, 35,314 pilgrims were carried by Biman while 37,869 pilgrims by Saudi airlines.

A Qatari spokesman had no immediate comment on the opening of the border for haj but said Sheikh Abdullah does not hold a position in the Qatari government. His grandfather, father and brother were rulers of Qatar until a palace coup ousted his branch of the royal family in 1972.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates imposed sanctions on fellow USA ally Qatar in June and cut all transport connections with the country.

The Iraqi Prime Minister has once again refused to join the Saudi-led bloc in the regional diplomatic row opposing Qatar and its neighbors.

The pilgrims from Qatar are allowed to perform Hajj via Salwa border crossing.

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Observers say that, despite this goodwill gesture, the dispute between Qatar and its neighbours, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE is far from over, the BBC report said.

A source at the ministry praised the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) and its efforts in communicating with worldwide organisations to ensure that Qatar's citizens and residents are not prevented from performing Haj and to overcome the difficulties facing their arrival in the holy sites.

The hajj takes place at the beginning of September this year. Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Qatar's complaint amounted to a "declaration of war" against the kingdom's management of the holy sites.

Qatar has denied the accusation.

At issue is Qatar's support for Islamist opposition groups in the region, which Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt view as a threat.

Naqvi also thanked the Saudi Arabian government for facilitating this year's pilgrimage and increasing India's quota by 35,000 pilgrims.

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