Qatar's Foreign Ministry has expressed its surprise at the announcement by Saudi Arabia that Qatari pilgrims can travel only by Saudi Arabian Airlines to perform Haj.
Ambassador Ahmed bin Saeed al-Rumaihi, Foreign Ministry's Information Office Director, said in a statement that limiting the transport of Qatari pilgrims to Saudi Arabian Airlines only is unprecedented, illogical, surprising and contravenes the teachings of Islam, which urge the facilitation of performing this duty to all Muslims.
Ambassador al-Rumaihi noted that it is usual and customary for pilgrims from any country to be transported by the national air, land and sea travel organisations in that country, in addition to other foreign means of transportation, with the latter taking place as part of the national Haj mission.
*Foreign ministry surprised at restrictions placed
on Qatari pilgrims' transport
*The move contravenes teachings of Islam,
says foreign ministry spokesman
*Qatari pilgrims require facilitation and not
charity to perform Haj: official
He pointed out that in previous cases of severing of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and other countries, this demand for transferring pilgrims of those countries on Saudi Arabian Airlines has not been made.
As for allowing Saudi Arabian Airlines to transfer Qatari pilgrims, the Information Office director reiterated the content of the Civil Aviation Authority's statement on August 20 that co-ordination be held in this regard through the Haj mission according to previous regulations so as to ensure the safety and security of Qatari pilgrims.
He stressed that Qatar and Qatari pilgrims did not need aid for covering the cost of Haj and portraying it as a charity, because there are other beneficiaries who need charity more than Qatari pilgrims.
He added that facilitating the performance of Haj would be through an unconditional lifting of the siege on Qatar which would go in line with the nature of this rite and comply with the teachings of Islam and international conventions; enabling the Qatari Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs to steer the Qatari Haj mission; and transporting Qatari pilgrims through the airline of their choice - whether Qatar Airways or other airlines.
The official stressed the need to separate Haj from political differences between states and not to hinder its performance by placing conditions that affect the sovereignty of states or the rights and dignity of their citizens. It is also important to stay away from exploiting it as a tool for political manipulation, he added.
Earlier, Doha had denied a claim from Saudi Arabian Airlines accusing Qatari authorities of refusing to allow one of its flights to land at Hamad International Airport.
An official source in the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority said the claim was "baseless".
The Haj is a pilgrimage that Muslims, who are able, must perform at least once.
This year's Haj at the start of September is expected to draw some two million Muslims from around the world.
Riyadh has turned the pilgrimage into the latest front in an ongoing diplomatic crisis that has seen Saudi Arabia and its allies cut all ties with Doha over accusations of support for extremist groups and close ties to Iran. Qatar denies the allegations.
Saudi Arabia has said Qatari pilgrims would be allowed to enter the kingdom for this year's Haj but imposed several travel restrictions, including flying in only on airlines approved by Riyadh.
The move has sparked a backlash in Doha, where the people believe the pilgrimage had been used as political weapon.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates severed diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar on June 5 in what has become the worst political crisis to grip the Gulf region in decades.
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