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Qatari Hajj Pilgrims Arrive in Saudi Arabia Hours after Opening Border | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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King Salman ordered the opening of the Salwa border crossing with Qatar to allow Hajj pilgrims to enter Saudi Arabia. (AFP)

Al-Dammam, Mecca – Saudi Arabian authorities announced on Thursday that Qatari Hajj pilgrims started to enter the Kingdom through the Salwa crossing only hours after Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz issued the order to open the border passage for the pilgrims.

These pilgrims will be hosted at the expense of the Kingdom and jets have been flown from Saudi Arabia to Doha to transport them to western Saudi Arabia. They have also been exempted from obtaining mandatory electronic visas.

Up until noon on Thursday, some 120 Qatari pilgrims had crossed the Salwa border in buses or in their own personal vehicles, the Saudi Passport General Department told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and the National Human Rights Committee in Qatar welcomed on Thursday Riyadh’s order to open the passage.

King Salman’s decision to open the border crossing and cover the expenses of the Qatari pilgrims came after Vice Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Prince Mohammed bin Salman held talks with Qatari mediator Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali bin Abdullah bin Jassem Al Thani. Discussions focused on allowing Qatari pilgrims to enter the Kingdom without electronic visas.

Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said that King Salman’s order was unprecedented in that no other Islamic country has received the same facilitations as Qatar in regards to the Hajj.

United Arab Emirates State Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Anwar Gargash tweeted that “Qatar’s politicization of the Hajj must end after King Salman’s generous initiative.”

He added that his gesture proves that there are issues that are greater than politics.

Head of the Salwa border crossing Fahd al-Ataibi told Asharq Al-Awsat that all officials and government sectors are fully prepared to welcome the Qatari pilgrims, who began arriving in the Kingdom on Thursday.

“All possible services have been put at their disposal for their entry through the Salwa crossing and all obstacles have been removed from their path in accordance to King Salman’s order to host the Qatari pilgrims at his expense,” he added.

The pilgrims themselves said that their arrival in the Kingdom was “very easy,” saying that the border procedures took about 20 minutes.