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Saudi Arabia to Allow Qatari Hajj Pilgrims Through Border Crossing

  • VOA News

FILE - Muslim pilgrims prepare themselves for Friday prayers in front of the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sept. 9, 2016.

Saudi state media reported Thursday that King Salman has approved opening a border crossing with Qatar in order to allow pilgrims to make the hajj.

The Saudi Press Agency said that in addition to opening the Salwa border crossing, Saudi Arabia would send planes to Doha to transport Qatari pilgrims at Saudi expense.

The report further said the decision came after a meeting between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and Qatari royal family member Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al Thani.

Saudi Arabia had said earlier it would only allow Qatari pilgrims to arrive on flights from Doha, leading Qatar to accuse Saudi Arabia of politicizing the process.

The two countries have been locked in a diplomatic battle since June when Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates cut ties with Qatar over allegations the country supports terrorists. Qatar denies the accusations.

The pilgrimage to Mecca, Islam's holiest city, is one of the five pillars of Islam. All able-bodied Muslims who can afford to do so are expected to take part in the hajj at least once in their lifetimes.

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