ABU SAMRAH: On Saturday, Qatar and Saudi Arabia reopened their land border, correspondents saw, as they resumed relations after a historic agreement to end a three-and-a-half-year split.
In June 2017, Saudi closed its side of Qatar’s only land boundary as part of a sanctions package that it claimed was a reaction to Doha’s support for militant Islamist groups and proximity to Iran. The allegations have always been refuted by Qatar.
Traffic at the Abu Samrah intersection, 120 kilometres (75 miles) south of Doha, resumed about 0700 GMT, a Qatari source said.
At a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council in the Kingdom on Tuesday, Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, all of which have already placed a travel and trade embargo, decided to lift the restrictions.
Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Ahmad Nasser Al-Sabah declared on state television the day before the summit that an agreement had been reached to “open the airspace and land and sea borders between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Qatar.”
At the palm tree-lined, whitewashed border post, just a trickle of cars arrived to make the brief crossing to the Saudi side after news broke that the border had reopened.
A smaller number made the trip to Qatar from Saudi Arabia, where stringent measures were implemented to combat the spread of the new coronavirus.
“I am very pleased that the frontier is open again,” Qatari Jaber al-Marri said as he approached a checkpoint in his Land Cruiser SUV, adding that he had relatives in the neighbouring kingdom. “In Saudi Arabia, a lot of Qataris have relatives,” he said.
“The coming days are going to be better,” the man said, holding in his hand a negative coronavirus test report. For those coming from the Saudi side, Qatar has declared strict coronavirus protection measures. Doha would mandate travellers to request a negative test result, to undergo a new border test and to be quarantined for one week in a government-approved hotel.
The Qatari health service’s helicopter shuttled supplies between Doha and the border, a correspondent reported.
Since it was the weekend, it did not seem that freight transportation had resumed.
Qatari Hamad al-Marri, who also drove a Land Cruiser, said he was delighted to go falcon hunting in Saudi Arabia, a common pastime in the Gulf.
I’m going to take a fortnight’s vacation there,’ he added. I’m going to go hunting and see my buddies who we haven’t seen for over three and a half years.
“I’m going to be reunited with my family and everyone is happy that we can go to Makkah and Medina.” The two Saudi cities are Islam’s focal points, and during the political split, Qataris failed to perform the Haj and Umrah pilgrimages.
The obstacles were blamed on one another by Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Only hours after the Kuwaiti declaration of a detente between Qatar and its former enemies, some drivers gathered at a gas station near to the Qatari exit stage.
“It is a great pleasure that I bought this new car, a Land Cruiser, to go and celebrate with my relatives in Saudi Arabia, and I took a coronavirus test and waited here, hoping that at any moment they would allow us to cross,” said Zaid Muhammad al-Marri, 23, a Qatari whose mother is Saudi, before the reopening of the border.