Riyadh: Saudi Arabia has urged Qatar to facilitate procedures for Qataris wishing to perform the annual Haj and accused Doha of impeding their access to the key Muslim obligation, Saudi media reported on Sunday.
Riyadh and Doha have been locked in a bitter dispute for more than two years over Qatar’s support for terrorism.
The Saudi government is doing its best to facilitate the arrival of pilgrims from around the world, including Qatar, the Saudi Ministry of Haj and Umrah said in a statement.
The ministry accused the Qatari government of blocking several websites set up by Saudi Arabia to allow Qataris and residents in the Gulf emirate to register for pilgrimage services,
A Qatari delegation that had come to Saudi Arabia to discuss arrangements for the upcoming Haj season, left the kingdom without signing a relevant agreement, the ministry added.
“The kingdom categorically rejects any attempt to politicise Haj,” the statement said.
Haj is one of Islam’s five pillars. This year’s Haj season is due next month.
Muslims are expected to perform it at least once in their lifetimes if they can afford it and are physically able.
In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt broke off diplomatic and transportation links with Qatar over its support for extremist groups.
Qatar has since tightened curbs on its nationals’ travels, including going to Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, and falsely accused its heavyweight neighbour of barring Qataris from performing rituals of Haj and umrah.
Despite Qatar’s attempts to manipulate pilgrimage in its row with Saudi Arabia, Qataris have not stopped going on the holy trips.
Nearly 1,000 Qataris performed the Haj rituals last year, according to non-official figures. Qatar has a quota of 1,200 Haj pilgrims based on its total population (including expats) of around 2.6 million.