RIYADH, July 31 — Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir warned on Sunday that Qatar’s call to internationalize the holy sites is “a declaration of war against the kingdom.”
“We reserve the right to respond to any party working in the field of internationalization of the holy sites,” al-Jubeir said in an interview with Al Arabiya and Al Hadath on the sidelines of the Saudi-led Quartet’s foreign ministers’ meeting in Manama.
At a joint news conference in Manama, Bahrain on Sunday, al-Jubeir reiterated that Qataris were welcome to perform the pilgrimage to the holy sites in Saudi.
“Saudi Arabia rejects Qatar’s attempt to politicize the arrival of Qatari pilgrims into the kingdom,” al-Jubeir said at the news conference with his counterparts from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt.
“Saudi Arabia welcomes the Qataris to perform Hajj like the rest of the pilgrims,” the top Saudi diplomat said, adding that Riyadh is making great efforts to facilitate the arrival of pilgrims into the country.
The joint statement issued by the four foreign ministers on Sunday also condemned Qatar’s authorities for obstructing its citizens from performing Hajj.
The Saudi-led quartet cut their diplomatic ties with Qatar and impose a blockade on it on June 5, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism and extremism, interfering in their internal affairs and seeking closer ties with Iran, a Saudi rival.
Qatar has strongly denied these charges, insisting it has been fighting terrorism relentlessly.
The joint statement insisted that Qatar meet their demands before they could hold talks to end the Gulf crisis. The demands challenge Qatar to halt funding of terrorism and extremism, stop interference in other countries’ internal affairs, and downgrade its ties with Iran.
Hajj pilgrims from around the world have started arriving in Saudi Arabia to prepare for the annual Hajj in Mecca, the holiest site for Muslims, that starts late August.
A Saudi official has accused Qatar of barring citizens from traveling to Saudi to perform Hajj.