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Saudi Arabia allows direct flights to Qatari pilgrims for Hajj

Muslims touch and pray at the door of the Kaaba and touch and kiss the al-Hajr al-Aswad "Black Stone" during their Umrah Mawlid al-Nabawi "Birthday of Prophet Mohammad" in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia January 22, 2016. Picture taken January 22, 2016. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Riyadh [Saudi Arabia]: Amid the ongoing impasse, Saudi Arabia has allowed access to Qatari pilgrims for Hajj (annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca) aboard all flights other than Qatar Airways, country’s national carrier.

“Pilgrims from Qatar who have Hajj permits … can come directly from Doha or through any other transit place,” the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) said in a statement cited by the official SPA news agency on Sunday.

It, however, said that Qatari pilgrims will be allowed to come to Hajj aboard any carrier except for the Qatar Airways.

The flights will be the first between Saudi Arabia and Qatar since Riyadh and three other Arab states cut ties last month with Doha for allegedly supporting terrorism. Qatar has denied the accusations.

GACA said Qatari pilgrims will only be allowed access via King Abdulaziz Airport in Jeddah and Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Airport in Medina.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have imposed a land, sea and air blockade on Qatar and presented a list of demands to end the siege, including the closure of the Al Jazeera television network and cutting off military ties with Turkey and Iran.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday arrived in the Saudi city of Jeddah on the first leg of his Gulf tour that will also include Kuwait and Qatar, aimed at defusing the stand-off between Qatar and its Arab neighbours. (ANI)