Saudi Arabia and Qatar in furious row over Hajj

Qatar has accused Saudi Arabia of politicising the Hajj, claiming Riyadh has imposed restrictions on Qatari nationals planning to travel to Makkah for the annual pilgrimage.

Qatar’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said on Saturday that Qatari citizens have been told they can only enter Saudi Arabia through two airports and that they must travel via Doha to be allowed in.

You The NHRC said it has filed a complaint with the UN special rapporteur on freedom of belief and religion over the restrictions, which it said were in “stark violation of international laws and agreements that guarantee the right to worship.”

The restrictions are part of a boycott launched on June 5 by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, which saw the group sever diplomatic ties with Qatar and impose a blockade. They accuse Qatar of funding “terrorism,” allegations Qatar has strongly denied.

The four Arab states cut transport links with Qatar, and Saudi Arabia has closed the peninsula’s only land border.

The NHRC said it was “extremely concerned over [Saudi Arabia] politicising religious rituals and using [Hajj] to achieve political gains.”

In response Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister called Qatar’s demand for an internationalisation of the Hajj pilgrimage a declaration of war against the kingdom, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television said on Sunday, but Qatar said it never made such a call.

“Qatar’s demands to internationalise the holy sites is aggressive and a declaration of war against the kingdom,” Adel al-Jubeir was quoted saying on Al Arabiya’s website.

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

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said no official from his country had made such a call.

“We are tired of responding to false information and stories invented from nothing,” Sheikh Mohammed told Al Jazeera.

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