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Qataris crossing into Saudi Arabia welcomed with roses after border reopens

Drivers arrive at the Salwa border crossing in Saudi Arabia [SPA]

Date of publication: 10 January, 2021

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Drivers who arrived at the Salwa border crossing in Saudi Arabia from the Qatari land crossing at Abu Samrah were welcomed with roses.
Travellers from Qatar crossing into Saudi Arabia by land were greeted with roses, local media reported on Saturday. 

Drivers arrived at the Salwa border crossing in Saudi Arabia, 500 kilometres (310 miles) east of the capital Riyadh, from the Qatari land crossing at Abu Samrah for the second day following its re-opening, Saudi Press Agency reported.

Since the re-opening of the border, 167 Qatari cars had entered Saudi Arabia, while 35 Qatari vehicles had crossed back into Qatar, said Ali Lablabi, general manager of Salwa's customs department.

"Coming from Qatar is like coming to our second country, where there's no difference between them and us in their traditions," said Mohammed al-Marri, a Qatari who was one of the first to drive through the land crossing into Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia shut its side of Qatar's only land border in June 2017 as part of a package of sanctions it said was a response to Doha's backing of radical Islamist groups and closeness to Iran. Qatar always denied the charges.

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

Saudi Airlines announced on Saturday that it would begin operating flights from Riyadh and Jeddah to Doha from Monday. 

The deep-pocketed residents of gas-rich Qatar - one of the world's wealthiest countries per capita -  pumped millions of riyals into Saudi hotels, date plantations and other real estate.

But the money dried up when the embargo shut the Qataris out, unleashing economic pain and dividing extended families on both sides, an unintended consequence of a policy meant to hurt Doha's government.

A spokesperson for Abu Dhabi's carrier, Etihad, said the airline intended to resume services between Abu Dhabi and Doha but did not specify a date.

Measures to curb the spread of the new coronavirus variant remain in place on both sides of the Saudi-Qatar land border, with all arrivals into Qatar required to produce a negative Covid-19 test and take a new test at the border. 

Arrivals are also required to quarantine for one week in a hotel selected by the Qatari government for self-isolating travellers, according to the Qatar News Agency.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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