Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Doha Drags on Hajj Planes Clearance, Riyadh Leaves Gates Wide Open to Qatari Pilgrims | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A Muslim pilgrim prays atop Mount Thor in the Saudi holy city of Makkah ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage. (Reuters)

Riyadh – Qatari authorities have blocked all hopes of travelers wishing to join this year’s Hajj pilgrimage, as Doha’s civil aviation authorities failed to respond to Saudi Arabia’s request for clearance to land planes sent to transport pilgrims.

Saudi airlines had announced the scheduling of seven Boeing flights to transport Qatari pilgrims between August 22 and 25, and submitted a request to the Doha Civil Aviation Authority to fly over its airspace.

The initiative came after a royal order given by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz.

The airlines’ Director General, Saleh Al-Jasser, said that Qatari authorities have not allowed the “Saudia” planes to land despite days having passed since the request was submitted.

The airlines had asked Qatari authorities for permission for their trips to transport Qatari pilgrims, which were scheduled after directives from King Salman.

The orders were issued after a mediation by Qatar’s Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al Thani.

Meanwhile, a number of Qatari pilgrims expressed their happiness upon arrival in Saudi Arabia through the Salwa land border crossing to perform the annual pilgrimage this year.

They did so whilst noting the role of the Kingdom in the service of the two holy mosques and the services and facilities provided to them at the crossing.

They praised the good reception they received upon arrival. They also stressed that their passage into the border post from the passport lounge all the way to customs was swift and no obstacles were faced.

The Saudi Press Agency toured the Salwa border crossing and met a number of Qatari pilgrims.

Ali bin Masoud Al-Marri expressed his happiness to travel to Makkah to perform Hajj this year. He praised the services and facilities provided at the Salwa border crossing. “We did not face any obstacles while passing through,” he said.

Al-Marri prayed to Allah Almighty to prolong the life of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, stressing the unity and brotherhood between the Saudi and Qatari people.

Qatari pilgrims Obeid Jaber and Salim bin Rashed Al-Marri said that the traffic at the crossing from the passport lounge to customs was very easy, without any obstacles. They praised the Kingdom’s role in serving the two holy mosques.

On the other hand, a source familiar with the Saudi aviation authorities told Asharq Al-Awsat that the national carrier’s planes were ready to move immediately to Doha airport as soon as a Qatari response to the plane landing request is received at its airport.

“The ball is in the court of the Qatari authorities. We are ready to move the planes as soon as we receive a positive response, but Doha seems to have preferred to play on the stall,” the source said.

Saudi Arabia reopened its border with Qatar last week to allow Qataris to attend the Hajj amid a months-long rift between the neighboring countries. King Salman also authorized Saudi planes to transport pilgrims at his expense. Already, more than 100 Qataris have crossed into Saudi Arabia since the border was opened.