Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz has ordered that Hajj pilgrims from Qatar be allowed to enter Saudi Arabia, where he has offered to host them at his own expense.
The move follows accusations that Saudi authorities were hindering the entry of Qatari pilgrims into Saudi Arabia, where hundreds of thousands of Muslims are set to perform the Hajj pilgrimage later this month.
Since early June, Qatar has been the target of a land, sea and air embargo by a four-nation bloc of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia.
In an apparent response to the accusations, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported late Wednesday that King Salman had “agreed to recommendations made by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman regarding the entry of Qatari pilgrims into the [Saudi] kingdom via the Salwa land border crossing to perform the Hajj”.
The king, the news agency added, had consented to allow “all Qatari citizens who wish to perform the Hajj [into the kingdom] without required electronic permits”.
According to the SPA, the king’s decision was “based on the mediation efforts of Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali bin Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani, a member of Qatar’s ruling family who was received by bin Salman in Jeddah on Wednesday”.
The news agency went on to report that King Salman had dispatched a Saudi Airlines aircraft to Doha’s international airport “to transport all Qatari pilgrims at his own expense to the city of Jeddah”.
Last month, Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee told the UN’s special rapporteur on religious freedom that Hajj pilgrims from Qatar were being discriminated against by the Saudi authorities.
Committee head Ali bin Smeikh al-Marri called on the Saudi authorities to “facilitate Hajj procedures and remove restrictions” facing Qatari pilgrims.
On 5 June, four Arab states – including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Emirates and Bahrain – abruptly cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism.
Saudi Arabia also closed its land border with Qatar, geographically isolating the tiny Gulf state.
Doha, for its part, strenuously denies accusations that it supports terrorism, describing attempts to isolate it as “unjustified” and in breach of international law.