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Qatar Welcomes Saudi Decision to Open Borders to Pilgrims

Storyline:National News

Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, announced on Thursday that his country welcomes Saudi Arabia’s decision to open the land border to Qatari pilgrims but also criticized what he saw as a “politicization” of pilgrimage.

In a joint press conference in Stockholm with his Swedish counterpart, Margot Wallstrom, Al-Thani stated, “regardless of the fact that the pilgrimage was prohibited for Qataris for political reasons, we do welcome this decision.”

On a similar note, the Qatari National Human Rights Commission (QNH) expressed on Thursday its satisfaction with Saudi Arabia’s decision to open the land border as well as the direct air route in order to transport the Qatari pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.

On Sunday evening, Salman bin Abdul-Aziz, Saudi Arabia’s king, called the Qatari pilgrims to enter the kingdom through their “Salwa” border crossing, without any electronic permits. He also allowed direct flights from Doha as long as Qatar Airways does not operate them, according to the newest development in the pilgrims’ issue that occurred in the wake of the Gulf crisis.

The national human rights committee in qatar said in a statement that it “is deeply satisfied with the decision of the saudi authorities” and considers it “a step forward to remove all obstacles and difficulties that have been facing the qatari pilgrims this year”.

The committee added that “since the beginning of the siege, it demanded the facilitation of the pilgrimage procedures for citizens and residents of Qatar, without the imposition of any obstacles or restrictions. The demands have been accompanied by regional and international efforts to lift any injustice towards the pilgrims and in order to refrain from any politicization of the pilgrimage or its use as a way to punish people or put pressure on governments.”

Since 5 June, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt have cut diplomatic ties with Qatar. The first three countries have imposed measures that they perceive as a “boycott”, whereas Doha perceives them as a “siege”, after it has been accused of supporting terrorism, which it denies, saying that it is facing a campaign of fabricated lies that aims at imposing “guardianship” and threatens its sovereignty.

The Qatari Human Rights Committee stressed that “the issue of pilgrimage cannot be subjected to any personal or political calculations, and that it is an inherent right enshrined in all international conventions and international human rights conventions as well as in the Islamic law.”

The committee considered that “the decision of the Saudi authorities is still ambiguous, especially when it comes to the non-Qatari pilgrims who reside in Qatar”. It also demanded that “measures to facilitate their pilgrimage be taken without discrimination and that more measures be implemented to completely lift the siege on the citizens, residents of Qatar, as well as the citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

Prior to the decision of the Saudi King, the Kingdom required that Qatari pilgrims travel only by air, onboard of any airline company, as long as it is not Qatar Airways.

Qatar accused Saudi Arabia then of making pilgrimage for Qataris impossible and full of obstacles, which Riyadh denies. This comes amid exchanged accusations of using pilgrimage as a tool to increase the pressure on Qatar during the Gulf crisis.

Al-Arabiya TV Channel reported that 50 Qatari pilgrims have entered the Saudi territories to perform Hajj after the authorities opened the Salwa border crossing for the first time since the diplomatic dispute erupted between the two countries back in June.

Al-Arabiya said that pilgrims will be entering the kingdom as guests of the Saudi King.

Middle East Monitor