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Kuwait Airways denies ban on flying Qataris

There were reports Saudis had asked airline not to board Qataris flying to Jeddah airport

Gulf News

Manama: Kuwait Airways has denied reports that it had received instructions from Saudi authorities at the Jeddah airport not to board any Qatari national planning to go to Makkah for Umrah.

“Some media circles and social media have recently claimed that Kuwait Airways received instructions from the Saudi authorities to prevent Qatari nationals from performing Umrah,” the airline posted on its Twitter account. “In this regard, the chairman of the board of directors of Kuwait Airways, Yousuf Abdul Hameed Al Jassim, said that the company did not receive the instructions from the Saudi authorities. In fact, it received instructions to allow Qatari citizens to travel to perform Umrah without prior permission through King Abdul Aziz Airport in Jeddah and Prince Mohammad Bin Abdul Aziz [airport] in Madina,” the company said.

A video of a Qatari adviser talking about the instructions was widely circulated in Arabian Gulf countries, prompting some people to ask, via Twitter, Kuwait Airways to comment on the claims.

Turki Al Dheeb, the Relations and Media Manager at King Abdul Aziz International Airport, denied on his account the existence of such instructions.

“I stress to everyone that King Abdul Aziz International Airport welcomes the Qatari brothers coming to perform Umrah on a daily basis and there is no truth to the claim they had been prevented,” he posted on his account on Sunday.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been engaged in a spate of accusations and denials about Qatari nationals performing Umrah.

Last week, Saudi authorities insisted there was no ban on Qatari nationals or foreign residents of Qatar performing Umrah.

“The Ministry of Haj and Umrah welcomes the Qatari brothers to perform Umrah after they register upon arrival at King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah,” the ministry said in a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) on Tuesday.

“With regard to expatriates in Qatar who want to perform Umrah, they can register their data on the Ministry’s website. They can electronically finalise their contract with the accredited Saudi Umrah companies and select their service package.”

The procedures are applied with all people who arrive in Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah, the ministry said.

Those from Qatar planning to perform Umrah during Ramadan must land in Jeddah and can fly with any airline, except Qatar Airways, the ministry added.

The Qatari airline has been banned from flying to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt after the four countries on June 5 last year severed their diplomatic, trade and travel relations with Qatar.

Qatar has repeatedly claimed that Saudi Arabia was banning its citizens and residents from reaching Makkah to perform Haj or Umrah.

The Saudi authorities have insisted there was no ban on Qataris or Qatar residents and explained that since there was no direct flight between Doha and Jeddah, they had to take other routes to reach the airport at the Red Sea city.

Makkah has no airport and all travellers land in Jeddah, 70 kilometres away.

Before the breaking off of diplomatic and travel relations, Qataris could drive overland to Makkah. However, the Salwa border checkpoint between Saudi Arabia and Qatar has been shut down.

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