Saudi-Qatar border reopens for land traffic

Qatar Airways and Saudi Airlines announced Saturday on Twitter that they would begin resuming flights between their countries from Monday.
Sunday 10/01/2021
Cars move at Qatar’s Abu Samra border crossing with Saudi Arabia, after the two countries restored ties and opened borders, January 9, 2021. (REUTERS)
Cars move at Qatar’s Abu Samra border crossing with Saudi Arabia, after the two countries restored ties and opened borders, January 9, 2021. (REUTERS)

RIYADH--Qatar and Saudi Arabia reopened their land border Saturday as they restored ties following reconciliation agreement to end a three and a half year rift.

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

Cars were seen making the crossing on Saturday. A Qatari source said traffic at the Abu Samra crossing, 120 kilometres south of Doha, had resumed around 0700 GMT.

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

The day before the summit, Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Ahmad Nasser Al-Sabah had announced on state television that a deal had been reached to “open the airspace and land and sea borders between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the State of Qatar”.

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

An officer gives flowers to a driver at a border crossing of Saudi Arabia with Qatar, after the two countries restored ties and opened borders,  in Saudi Arabia, January 9, 2021. (REUTERS)
An officer gives flowers to a driver at a border crossing of Saudi Arabia with Qatar, after the two countries restored ties and opened borders,  in Saudi Arabia, January 9, 2021. (REUTERS)

Only a trickle of cars arrived at the palm tree-lined, whitewashed land border post to make the short crossing into Saudi Arabia after news broke that the frontier had reopened.

A smaller number made the journey from the kingdom into Qatar, where strict measures to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus have been imposed.

“I’m very happy the border is open again,” said Qatari Jaber al-Marri.

“A lot of Qataris have relatives in Saudi Arabia,” he said, holding a negative coronavirus test report.

“The coming days will be better.”

 Coronavirus restrictions 

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

Doha will require travellers to present a negative coronavirus test, undergo another test at the frontier and quarantine in a government-approved hotel for one week.

A helicopter belonging to the Qatari health service shuttled supplies between Doha and the border.

As it was the weekend, cargo haulage did not appear to have resumed.

“I’ll be reunited with my family,” added Qatari Hamad al-Marri. “Everybody is happy that we can go to Mecca and Medina.”