King Salman invites Qatar pilgrims to perform Hajj

Dhaka,  Sun,  24 September 2017
Published : 17 Aug 2017, 21:24:05
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King Salman invites Qatar pilgrims to perform Hajj

Doha will respond positively to Saudi decision
King Salman invites Qatar pilgrims to perform Hajj
RIYADH, Aug 17 (Agencies): Saudi Arabia will open its land border with Qatar to allow Hajj pilgrims to pass through, its official press agency said.

A statement on the official Saudi Press Agency on Thursday said the Salwa border point would be open for Qatari citizens who wish to perform the annual pilgrimage to pass through with no electronic permissions needed.

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

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

Meanwhile, the Qatari foreign minister on Thursday welcomed Saudi Arabia's decision to reopen the two countries' border to Muslim pilgrims, while lashing out at Riyadh's "politicisation" of religious freedoms.

"Regardless of the manner in which Qataris were banned from the pilgrimage, which was politicised, and the manner in which they were again permitted to make the pilgrimage, which was also politicised... the government of Qatar welcomes the decision and will respond positively," Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani told a press conference in Stockholm.

The Salwa border crossing had been shut after Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) severed diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing Doha of supporting "terrorism". Qatar denies the accusations.

Jeddah is the airport hub for pilgrims travelling to Mecca and Medina to perform the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

Under the same royal directive, Qatari citizens will also be transported to Mecca from King Fahad airport and Ihsaa airport in the east of the country.

Last month, Saudi Arabia said 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.

Qatar's National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) welcomed the Saudi decision to reopen the land border, but considered it vague, especially concerning the pilgrims residing in Qatar.

NHRC, in a statement on Thursday, demanded that all pilgrims get the same treatment and services without discrimination.

"The NHRC emphasises that the Hajj cannot be used for political and personal calculations or mediations, rather, it is a right guaranteed by international agreements on Human Rights and Islamic law," it said.

The rights group had demanded on Saturday that Saudi Arabia lift all land and air restrictions on Qatar-based pilgrims traveling to Mecca for the Hajj pilgrimage.
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