Qatari pilgrims have started arriving in Saudi Arabia after Riyadh said it was opening up its border and airports for those attending the annual haj pilgrimage despite a diplomatic rift that cut travel ties.
Qatar welcomed the Saudi decision to open the border and provide flights for Qatari pilgrims, but saw the move as politically motivated, Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed transport links with Qatar in June and imposed sanctions, accusing it of supporting Islamist militants and Iran, which Doha denies.
The State-run Saudi Press Agency said the Salwa border point would be open for Qataris performing the haj, which this year runs from late August to early September.
Saudi-owned al-Arabiya tele-vision and State television reported that 50 Qatari pilgrims had
entered Saudi territory overnight through the Salwa crossing, which was opened for the first time since the four-nation boycott of Qatar began.
Between two million and three million Muslims from around the world travel to Mecca, Islam’s holiest city, for the pilgrimage each year. Every able-bodied Muslim is supposed to undertake it at least once in the lifetime. AP