Qataris enter Saudi Arabia as rift ends

Amr Mostafa and Ramadan Al-Fatash
·2-min read

Qataris have began entering Saudi Arabia via a border crossing that was opened just days after a deal was reached to end a years-long regional diplomatic dispute.

Leaders of three Gulf countries - Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain - as well as Egypt signed a declaration with Qatar on Tuesday at an annual Gulf summit, ending a rift that lasted for three-and-a-half years.

On the eve of the summit, Saudi Arabia agreed to reopen its air, sea and land borders with Qatar - a major breakthrough in the Gulf crisis.

In 2017, the quartet severed diplomatic, trade and travel ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting Islamist militant groups, an accusation that Doha denies.

Kuwait and the United States had been mediating for reconciliation.

Saudi state television Al-Ekhbariya on Saturday aired footage of Qatari cars entering the kingdom via the Salwa border crossing.

"Thank God, the crisis has been resolved," a Qatari man in his car told the broadcaster. "I appreciate the warm welcome by our brothers."

Some 68 cars entered Saudi Arabia via the crossing, while 20 others departed to Qatar on Saturday, a Saudi customs official said.

"The crossing is in full operation. We welcome Qatari citizens," the head of the Salwa crossing customs, Ali al-Aklabi, told Al-Ekhbariya.

Qatar meanwhile said arrivals through its border crossing with Saudi Arabia starting on Saturday will undergo coronavirus-related measures.

They include undergoing a COVID-19 test and obtaining a virus-free certificate no more than 72 hours before travel.

All arrivals will also be subject to hotel quarantine for one week, Qatar's Government Communications Office added in an online statement.

On Thursday, the Qatari national carrier said it had started using Saudi airspace, in a sign of the boycott ending.

The dispute was one of the most serious experienced by the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council since it was created in 1981.

The US-allied bloc comprises Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman and the UAE.