Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has ordered the reopening of the border with Qatar to facilitate the annual hajj pilgrimage, state media said Thursday, in the first signs of a thaw after the region’s worst diplomatic crisis in years.
The decision came after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman held a surprise meeting with a Qatari royal family member Sheikh Abdullah Al Thani, whose branch of the family was ousted in a palace coup in 1972.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud meets Qatari royal family member Sheikh Abdullah Al Thani at the Peace Palace in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia
The Salwa border crossing had been shut after regional kingpin Saudi Arabia as well as Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates severed diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing the emirate of fostering Islamist extremist groups.
The king has permitted “the entry of Qatari pilgrims to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through Salwa border crossing to perform hajj, and to allow all Qatari nationals who wish to enter for hajj without electronic permits”, a statement on SPA said.
He also ordered that private jets belonging to Saudi airlines be sent to Doha airport “to bring all Qatari pilgrims on his expenses”.
The crown prince emphasised the “historical relations between Saudi and Qatari people” after his meeting with Qatari Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali bin Abdullah bin Jassim al-Thani, the statement added.
Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said he welcomed the Saudi decision, but that the measures must also include a full lifting of the blockade. He was responding to questions at a press conference in Sweden on Thursday.