Families reunite as Qatar-Saudi flights resume after rift

Families reunite as Qatar-Saudi flights resume after rift

Passengers wait at Hamad International Airport, as the country resumes international flights to Sau
Passengers wait at Hamad International Airport, as the country resumes international flights to Saudi Arabia, in Doha, Qatar Jan 11, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Ibraheem Al Omari)

RIYADH: Khalid al-Qahtani stood in the arrivals hall at Riyadh's main airport on Monday (Jan 11), waiting to see his sister almost four years after a diplomatic rift with neighbouring Qatar split his family apart.

Other relatives from other families clustered around him waiting for the passengers to get off the first flight from Doha allowed into Saudi Arabia since a US-backed deal reopened travel routes.

"My sister has been (in Qatar) for about four years. We communicate on WhatsApp ... My feelings - me and every Gulf citizen - are indescribable," he said.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt imposed a diplomatic, trade and travel boycott on Qatar in 2017, accusing it of supporting terrorism - a charge dismissed by Qatar which said the move was meant to curtail its sovereignty.

People wait to welcome their relatives who arrived from Doha, at King Khalid International Airport
People wait to welcome their relatives who arrived from Doha, at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia Jan 11, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri)

People welcome their relatives who arrived from Doha, at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh
People welcome their relatives who arrived from Doha, at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia Jan 11, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri)

As the states argued, relatives and friends separated by the dispute had to fly to a neutral third country to meet.

Then Saudi Arabia's foreign minister announced a breakthrough in ending the dispute at a summit on Tuesday and the air, land and sea links started to reopen.

"Thank God ... thank God," said grinning schoolboy Khalid al-Harji at Riyadh's King Khalid International Airport, soon after arriving from Doha and meeting his uncle and cousin.

"Qatar and us, we share many things: politically, economically, socially, geographically. There are relations, blood between us," said Bandar al-Qahtani waiting to greet his aunt.

Source: Reuters/kv

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