Saudi border to open for Qatari pilgrims attending Hajj
18:05, Thursday, 17 August, 2017
Saudi Arabia will open its border with Qatar to allow Muslim pilgrims to attend the annual Hajj in Mecca beginning this month, state media say. The announcement came after the first high-level meeting between the two sides since the Saudis and their allies cut all links with Qatar in June. They accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism - a charge Doha denies. A tight embargo has forced Qatar to import food by sea and air to meet the basic needs of its population of 2.7m.Qatari citizens wishing to attend the Hajj will be able to pass through the Salwa border without needing electronic permits, a statement on the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said. They would also be welcome through Saudi Arabia's airports. Last month, Saudi Arabia had warned Qatari pilgrims would face certain restrictions if they wanted to the attend the Hajj. Qatar responded by accusing Riyadh of politicising the Hajj, and the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion expressed concern at Saudi Arabia's measures. But the Saudi change of heart came after a meeting between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and Qatari Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali bin Abdullah bin Jassim al-Thani. Observers say that, despite this goodwill gesture, the dispute between Qatar and its neighbours, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates is far from over. On Wednesday, Bahrain's state TV channel accused Qatar of plotting with the kingdom's main opposition grouping to stoke anti-government unrest in 2011.