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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

Saudi Arabia lets Qataris go on Haj, despite diplomatic row

But the Haj  ministry has imposed restrictions on Qatari pilgrims arriving by plane, saying they must use only approved  airlines.

Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque in the  Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Mosa'ab Elshamy / AP photo
Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque in the Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Mosa'ab Elshamy / AP photo

Saudi Arabia will allow Qataris wanting to perform this year's Haj will be allowed into the kingdom, despite a diplomatic row between the two countries.

In a statement released on Thursday, the Saudi Haj ministry said Qataris and residents of the Gulf emirate could join the pilgrimage as they were already "electronically registered for the Haj" and they had the necessary permits from Riyadh and Doha.

But the ministry has imposed restrictions on Qatari pilgrims arriving by plane, saying they must use airlines in agreement with the Saudi authorities.They must also get visas on arrival in Jeddah or Medina, their sole points of entry into the kingdom.

This year the Haj is to take place at the beginning of September. Saudi Arabia and its allies Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates cut diplomatic ties and imposed sanctions on Qatar in June, including the closure of their airspace to Qatari airlines.

The four Arab states accuse Qatar of supporting extremists and of growing too close to Shiite-dominated Iran, the regional arch-rival of Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia.