Border opening for Haj welcome step, says FM
August 17 2017 11:28 PM
Qatar's Foreign HE Sheikh Minister Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani and his Swedis counterpart Margo
Qatar's Foreign Minister HE Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani and his Swedish counterpart Margot Wallstrom attend a news conference in Stockholm

Agencies/Stockholm

*Will respond positively to 'politically motivated' decision, says minister
*A good step towards reducing tension: Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs
* NHRC calls for facilitating procedures for pilgrims "without discrimination"

Qatar welcomed Saudi Arabia's decision to reopen the Salwa border to Haj pilgrims, but called it “politically motivated.”

"The government of Qatar welcomes the decision and will respond positively," HE the Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told a press conference in Stockholm.

"What matters to us is the bottom line, which is that our citizens now have a way to attend the Haj," Sheikh Mohamed said.

"Despite the fact it's been politically motivated to ban the Qatari people from Haj and politically motivated that they allow them (in)..., we welcome such a step, which is a step forward to get rid of this blockade that is imposed against my country.".

He denied Qatar had sent an envoy to mediate with Saudi Arabia.

The minister was speaking after meeting his Swedish counterpart Margot Wallstrom.

Sheikh Mohamed briefed the Swedish minister on the illegal measures taken by the siege countries against Qatar, which resulted in severing family ties, impeding access to property, as well as the issue of Haj and Umra.

He stressed Qatar's commitment to resolving the Gulf crisis diplomatically and through the mediation of Kuwait, and through mutual dialogue.

Qatar’s Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs (Awqaf) and the National Human Rights Committee too welcomed Saudi Arabia’s decision.

The ministry said the decision was a good step towards reducing the tension, stressing the importance of not subjecting the rituals to political differences.

A source at the ministry praised the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) and its efforts in communicating with international organisations to ensure that Qatar's citizens and residents are not prevented from performing Haj and to overcome the difficulties facing their arrival in the holy sites.

The source also stressed that the ministry will urge Saudi Arabia to ensure the safety of Qatar’s pilgrims.

The NHRC said the Saudi decision was a step towards removing obstacles and difficulties faced by the pilgrims and facilitating Haj procedures this year.

Since the beginning of the siege, the statement said, NHRC "has called for facilitating Haj procedures for citizens and residents of the State of Qatar without restrictions, and also called for regional and international moves to lift the injustice and not to politicise the Haj or use it as leverage against peoples or governments."

The NHRC added that Haj can't be "subject to any political or personal mediations or scores," but rather should be "an inherent right stipulated in all international human rights agreements and conventions and Islamic Shariah."

The Committee, however, said the Saudi decision remains "unclear," especially with regards to pilgrims living in Qatar. It called for facilitating procedures for the pilgrims "without discrimination," saying it looks forward to "further measures to completely lift the siege on the citizens and residents of the State of Qatar and GCC nationals."

The Salwa crossing between Qatar and Saudi Arabia had been sealed off for more than two months after the kingdom, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt announced a cut in ties with Qatar, recalled ambassadors and sealed off borders and airspace over allegations Doha backed extremists and was too close to Iran.

Qatar has denied the allegations.

Last updated: August 17 2017 11:57 PM


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