Elated Qataris flock to Arabia after border reopens

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Salwa border crossing (Saudi Arabia) (AFP)

Qataris celebrated crossing their border with Saudi Arabia on Sunday, calling the kingdom “our second country,” as Doha prepared its strict coronavirus measures for the Saudis to enter after a diplomatic thaw in the Gulf.

Drivers arrived at the Salwa border post in Saudi Arabia, 500 kilometers (310 miles) east of the capital Riyadh, from the Qatari overland crossing point at Abu Samrah for the second day after it reopened, reports reported. AFP correspondents.

Saudi Arabia closed its side of Qatar’s only land border in June 2017 as part of a sanctions package it said was a response to Doha’s support for radical Islamist groups and proximity to it. Iran.

Qatar has always denied the charges.

Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, which had all also imposed embargoes on travel and trade, agreed to lift the restrictions at a Gulf Cooperation Council summit in the kingdom Tuesday.

“Coming from Qatar is like coming to our second country, where there is no difference between them and us in their traditions,” said Mohammed al-Married, a Qatari who had visited Saudi Arabia. .

Since the border reopened, 167 Qatari cars have entered Saudi Arabia, while 35 Qatari vehicles have returned to Qatar, said Ali Lablabi, director general of the customs department in Salwa.

“This happiness – no one can describe it,” said Ghaith al-Marri, a Qatari. “There are people who started to cry” when the border reopened, he said.

Qatar Airways and Saudi Airlines announced on Twitter on Saturday that they would begin resuming flights between their countries from Monday.

Qatar has announced strict coronavirus control measures for those arriving from Saudi Arabia.

Doha will require travelers to test negative for the coronavirus, undergo another test at the border and quarantine at a government-approved hotel for a week.

Just an hour from the Salwa border crossing is Al-Ahsa, a desert oasis where Qatari shoppers once rocked the local economy, dropping in to buy affordable supplies including dates and milk.

Deep-pocketed residents of gas-rich Qatar – one of the richest countries in the world per capita – have also pumped millions of riyals into Saudi hotels, date farms and other real estate.

But the money dried up when the embargo ruled out the Qataris, sparking economic hardship and dividing extended families on both sides, an unintended consequence of a policy meant to harm the Doha government.

strawberries-gw / dm / lg

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