Saudi king offers to host Qatar pilgrims at own expense

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.

The statement said that Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has invited Qatari pilgrims to perform this year's Hajj pilgrimage at his expense.

A total of 73,183 pilgrims from Bangladesh have reached Saudi Arabia to perform hajj till 8:00 am today.

Sheikh Abdullah was quoted as telling the Saudi prince that the ties between the two countries "are brotherly relations rooted in history".

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates imposed sanctions on fellow US ally Qatar in June and cut all transport connections with the country. Also, Qatari expatriates were expelled from those countries.

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

Since the beginning of the siege, the statement said, NHRC "has called for facilitating Haj procedures for citizens and residents of the State of Qatar without restrictions, and also called for regional and worldwide moves to lift the injustice and not to politicise the Haj or use it as leverage against peoples or governments".

Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said his country welcomed the move, though he considered it "politically motivated".

The Saudi king on Wednesday ordered that Qatari pilgrims be allowed in as his guests.

The hajj takes place at the beginning of September this year.

Al Arabiya TV reported 50 Qatari pilgrims entered Saudi territory on Thursday after authorities opened the border crossing. Mecca is in Saudi Arabia, but Qataris were not allowed to fly there directly from Doha under the sanctions prior to the king's order.

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

The source also stressed that the ministry will urge Saudi Arabia to ensure the safety of Qatar's pilgrims.

  • Eleanor Harrison