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Saudi border to open for Qatari pilgrims attending Hajj

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 neighbours since Saudi Arabia and three other states cut all links in June.

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

The closure of the Saudi border has forced Qatar to import food by sea and air for its population of 2.7 million.

Qatari pilgrims wishing to attend the Hajj will be able to pass through the Salwa border crossing without needing electronic permits, a statement on the official Saudi Press Agency said. The would also be welcome through Saudi Arabia’s airports, it added.

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 Al Saud 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.

Source: BBC

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