Warm welcome accorded to Qatari pilgrims at Salwa border


Saudi Gazette report

THE first batch of Qatari pilgrims began entering Saudi Arabia on Thursday through the Salwa border crossing following a directive from Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman to allow their entry into the Kingdom. So far, 120 Qatari pilgrims have used the crossing under King Salman’s Guests’ Program, Saudi Television and Al Arabiya reported quoting sources. They were accorded a warm welcome.

Meanwhile, Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani welcomed Saudi Arabia’s decision to reopen the two countries’ border to the pilgrims. He made the statement at a press conference in Stockholm.

Meanwhile, Abdul Hakeem Al-Tamimi, President of the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), directed officials at King Fahd International Airport in Dammam and Al-Ahsa International Airport to offer the best possible services to the Qatari brethren.

Al-Tamimi thanked the King and the Crown Prince for their initiatives to remove all hurdles in the way of the Qatari pilgrims. “In line with the royal directive, airports in Dammam and Al-Ahsa as well as King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah and Prince Muhammad International Airport in Madinah will exert all efforts and mobilize all their potentials to serve the Qatari pilgrims,” he said.

Al-Tamimi welcomed the Qatari pilgrims, ensuring them all the facilities and services in enabling them to perform their rituals in ease and comfort.

Minister of Transport Sulaiman Al-Hamdan said all sectors under the Kingdom’s transport system have been geared up to materialize the royal directives in serving the Qatari pilgrims.

“The Public Transport Authority has permitted all those associated with land transport to make available all facilities and services for the Qatari pilgrims. All preparations are well in place at the airports in Dammam and Al-Ahsa as well as in Jeddah and Madinah to receive the pilgrims from Qatar,” he said adding that all roads from Salwa border point to the airports in the Eastern Province are well-poised to facilitate the pilgrim’s travel. Al-Ahsa mayoralty has completed its preparations to receive pilgrims from Qatar, Oman and United Arab Emirates at the Pilgrims City on Salwa Road.

The Qatari pilgrims said that they are expecting the pace to accelerate and that all actions have been taken to facilitate their entry and pilgrimage.

The royal decree came upon the mediation of Sheikh Abdullah Bin Ali Bin Abdullah Bin Jassem Al-Thani, Saudi Press Agency reported. King Salman also ordered transportation of all Qatari pilgrims from Dammam and Al-Ahsa airports be done free of charge as part of the King Salman Program for Haj and Umrah.

In addition, King Salman ordered to send Saudi Arabian Airlines planes to Doha to transport all Qatari pilgrims directly to Jeddah and for all their costs to be covered at his expense.

Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman had on Wednesday received Sheikh Abdullah at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah. During the meeting, Sheikh Abdullah affirmed that the brotherly relations between the Kingdom and Qatar are deeply rooted in history. Sheikh Abdullah offered to mediate to open the Salwa border crossing to allow Qatari pilgrims to enter the Kingdom.

The Crown Prince thanked Sheikh Abdullah for affirming the depth of historic relations between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, their citizens and the leadership in the Kingdom with the royal family of Qatar.

Meanwhile, a Qatari semi-government rights body gave a cautious welcome to the Saudi move, according to agencies. “This is a step toward removing the obstacles and difficulties (Qataris) faced during Haj procedures this year,” the National Human Rights Committee said in a statement.

The committee expressed its satisfaction with the decisions, but reiterated its demands that the Haj not be politicized and said the Saudi measures remain “unclear,” particularly regarding the facilitation of Haj for foreigners residing in Qatar. The statement noted that the agreement does not include allowing Qatar Airways flights carrying pilgrims. The statement also called “for further measures to lift the siege entirely on citizens and residents of Qatar.”