First Published: 2017-08-17

Qataris to do hajj on Saudi king expenses
King Slaman orders reopening of Salwa border crossing to allow Qataris to perform hajj in sign of goodwill.
Middle East Online

King Salman ordered that private jets belonging to Saudi airlines be sent to Doha airport to bring all Qatari pilgrims on his expenses

RIYADH - Saudi Arabia's King Salman has ordered the reopening of the border with Qatar to facilitate the annual hajj pilgrimage, state media said Thursday, in the first signs of a thaw after the region's worst diplomatic crisis in years.

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

The announcement to reopen the border for Qatari pilgrims came after Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received an envoy from Doha, according to the official Saudi Press Agency, in the first public high-level encounter between the nations after 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 also ordered that private jets belonging to Saudi airlines be sent to Doha airport "to bring all Qatari pilgrims on his expenses".

The crown prince emphasised the "historical relations between Saudi and Qatari people" after his meeting with Qatari Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali bin Abdullah bin Jassim al-Thani, the statement added.

Saudi Arabia had last month said that Qataris wanting to perform this year's 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 had subsequently accused Saudi Arabia of politicising hajj and jeopardising the pilgrimage to Mecca by refusing to guarantee their pilgrims' safety.

Some observers cautioned that the diplomatic crisis was far from over despite the apparent bonhomie.

"This is a goodwill gesture towards the Qatari people and not a breakthrough with the Qatari govt," Ali Shihabi from the Washington-based think tank Arabia Foundation said on Twitter, referring to the reopening of the border.

Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies shut down air, maritime and land links with Qatar, and imposed economic sanctions, accusing Doha of supporting "terrorists" and of being too close to their regional nemesis Iran.

Qatar denied the allegations and denounced what it called a "blockade" aimed at bringing the wealthy emirate to its knees.

The tiny emirate with a population of 2.6 million, 80 percent of them foreigners, ranks as the world's richest on a per capita basis, according to the International Monetary Fund.

It holds a staggering $330 billion in a sovereign wealth fund, with assets heavily invested abroad.

The hajj, a pillar of Islam that capable Muslims must perform at least once in a lifetime, is to take place this year at the beginning of September.

More than 1.8 million faithful took part in last year's hajj. The pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of Islam and all Muslims who can must perform it at least once in their lives.

 

Lebanon’s Hariri suspends resignation

Divided Syria opposition meets in Riyadh

Revolt in US State Department over child soldier law

US carries out air strikes against IS in Libya

Morocco bans bitcoin transactions

Saudi-led coalition to reopen Yemen airport, port to aid

Turkey court rules to keep Amnesty chief in jail

France calls for UN meeting on Libya slave-trading

Egypt detains 29 for allegedly spying for Turkey

WTO panel to hear Qatar’s complaint against UAE blockade

Three dead as diphtheria spreads in Yemen

Israel seizes explosive material at Gaza border

Activists call for release of UK journalist held by IS

Bahrain upholds jail sentence for activist

Iraq attacks at lowest since 2014

Turkey continues crackdown in post-coup probe

Hariri back in Lebanon

Putin to hold Syria peace talks with Erdogan, Rouhani

Lebanon's Hariri in Egypt ahead of return home

Rebels say Sanaa airport 'ready to run' after coalition bombing

Greece to amend historic sharia law for Muslim minority

Turkey to ask Germany to extradite top coup suspect

Car bomb in northern Iraq kills at least 24

13 million Syrians need aid despite relative drop in violence

Sudan urged to improve plight of Darfur's displaced people

Brain drain means Syria can’t recover for a generation

Palestinians close communication lines with Americans

Anti-IS coalition strikes drop to lowest number

German police arrest six Syrians ‘planning terror attack’

Palestinian factions in Cairo for reconciliation talks

Turkish opposition daily web editor sentenced to 3 years in jail

Israeli police arrest 33 in ultra-Orthodox draft riots

Turkish lira at new low against US dollar

Islamic republic declares end of Islamic State

Assad in Russia for talks with Putin

UN chief horrified by Libya slave auctions

Qatar 2022 chief has no regrets over hosting World Cup

Gheit says Lebanon should be 'spared' from regional tensions

Saudi Arabia, Arab allies push for unity against Iran, Hezbollah meddling

Syria ‘de-escalation zone’ does nothing to stop civilian deaths

Is a demilitarised Palestinian state a viable option?

S&P affirms good Saudi credit ratings

Israel president faces big backlash over Palestinian scarf

Sudan leader to visit Russia Thursday

Seven years into Libya’s civil war, the chaos continues