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Saudis reject attack on ability to oversee Haj operations

Qatar’s call to internationalise Haj is re-tweet of Iran’s bid

Gulf News

Dubai: Saudi Arabia was outraged by Qatar’s attempts to question the kingdom’s ability to manage the holy sites and by the call to deprive the Saudis of their sovereignty over a significant piece of their territories and of their right to organise and oversee Haj.

No other country, save Iran on some occasions, has ever made such claims, Saudi Arabia said.

“Qatar’s demands to internationalise the holy sites is aggressive and a declaration of war against the kingdom,” Adel Al Jubeir, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, said on Sunday.

“We reserve the right to respond to anyone who is working on the internationalisation of the holy sites.”

For Al Jubeir, Qatar is merely looking for pretexts to “sway people’s attention from the core issue of the crisis — its support and funding of terrorism”.

Angry commentators on Saudi social media blasted the calls and hints for the internationalisation of the Haj operations.

“Following their failure to convince the world about the fictitious ban by Saudi Arabia on Qatari pilgrims, Al Jazeera and other media resorted to Iranian calls to internationalise Haj operations,” Ahmad Al Rubai, a columnist wrote in Saudi daily Okaz on Tuesday. “It looked like a Qatari re-tweet of the Iranian claims.”

During the two-month Qatari crisis, Saudi Arabia said measures to ban Qatari citizens from entering the kingdom does not apply to Haj or Umrah.

Riyadh in separate statements said that all Qataris were welcome to Makkah for Umrah or Haj and that they could fly into Jeddah and Madinah, the two airports used by pilgrims arriving in the kingdom for the religious rituals.

Riyadh added that in line with its sovereign right to ban the landing of Qatar-registered aircraft in the kingdom, Qataris needed to fly in from Doha on non-Qatari planes.

On June 5, Saudi Arabia, together with the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, severed diplomatic and trade relations with Qatar and barred Qatari nationals from entering Saudi Arabia. The Arab move was taken in response to Doha’s foreign policies and its support to terrorism.