Saudi Arabia Opens Qatar Land Border for Pilgrims

The decision of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, ordering the opening of Saudi border for Qatar Haj pilgrims has been hailed by many.

The Salwa border crossing, also known as Abu Samrah, a key passage for Muslims on the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, has been closed since June in a diplomatic crisis that saw Riyadh cut ties with Doha over accusations the emirate supported Islamist extremists.

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

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.

In a statement carried by SPA, the Crown Prince thanked Sheikh Al Thani "for his brotherly feelings" as he stressed "the depth of historical relations" between Saudis and Qataris.

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

Qatar's National Human Rights Committee said it was "satisfied" with the move, but asked for further clarification about procedures.

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They accuse Qatar of aiding terrorists - a charge the emirate denies.

Sheikh Mohammed affirmed that Qatar's position has been clear and positive from the beginning of the crisis.

Saying the Kingdom does not politicize Hajj, Al-Shehri said: "This is Saudi Arabia, generous and large-hearted".

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

Officials from other boycotting Arab states appeared to endorse Saudi Arabia's announcement.

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from around the world have already arrived in Saudi Arabia for the hajj, which begins late next week.

The king "serves in his best capacity Muslims from all over the world coming to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj and Umrah", Hamdan Al-Shehri, a political analyst and worldwide relations scholar, told Arab News on Thursday.

  • Adam Floyd