Sana’a: Yemenis have sent an appeal to the Saudi Arabia to reopen its embassy in Yemen as to be able to visit the Holy sites during Ramadan. Every year, thousands of Yemen flock Makkah to perform Umrah,
Following the kidnapping of the Saudi diplomat, Abdullah Al Khalidi in the southern port city of Aden in March, Saudi Arabia closed its embassy in Sana’a and the consulate in Aden. Al Qaida branch in Yemen claimed responsibility for the abduction and are demand the release Al Qaida’s women prisoners in the kingdom.
However on Wednesday Saudi Arabia denied news reports that it closed its embassy in Yemen, saying that only the Consular Section of the Embassy was temporarily closed and the embassy is still issuing visas.
“ To illustrate this matter, the Ministry affirmed that there is no truth about this news, that the closure is limited only to the Consular Section of the Embassy temporarily, and that matter does not prevent the Embassy from issuing the necessary visas for humanitarian and important cases.” an official from the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Saudi news agency
Tourism agencies have complained that the closure of the embassy have cost them a dear as thousands of students, traders and pilgrims have not given permission to travel to the kingdom .
Abdulla Yaslem Baabetain, Umrah and Haj officer at Bahatraf Tourism Agency in Mukalla ,said that the problem started a week after the abduction of the Saudi diplomat in Aden with the consulate in Aden was first closed and two weeks later, the embassy in sana’a was shuttered.
“The embassy has suspended issuing visa for workers, pilgrims and patients which caused us massive loses. We upfront paid for pilgrims accommodation in Makkah and Madinah. We can’t return our money.”
“95% of pilgrims in Yemen prefer to spend the month of Ramadan in Mecca. Even if the Saudis reopened their embassy now , they will not be able to catch up with thousands of accumulated passports.”
Abdullah expected that the agencies that the solely depend on Umrah service may go bankrupt.
“Some agencies totally depend on Umrah and Hajj season and the closure of the embassy will definitely drive them to laying off workers.”
Abdul Karem Al Sa’afani, deputy director of Hajj and Umrah department at Yemeni Tourism Union, told Gulf News that as many as 80.000 pilgrims have been prevented from traveling to the Mecca and Madina and the number is on rise if the embassy remained closed.
“Many Yemenis take their annual leave before Ramadan and apply for visa as to be able to spend the Holy month in Mecca. We urge the Yemeni government to quickly work on release the kidnapped Saudi diplomat as to stop the great loses.”
Abdul Karem said that Saudi embassy stopped issuing 1640 visa and approximately 2.000 workers are threatened to lose their jobs.”The total lose is estimated YR4billion(AED69m).
Responding to many protests in front of his house, Yemen president Abdu Rabu Mansur Hadi on Friday telephoned the Saudi monarch, Abdulla Bin Abdu Aziz urging him to reopen embassy. The government-run Saba news agency reported that Hadi was given a promise from the Saudi kind to “swiftly reopened it.
To protests against the closure of the embassy, many pilgrims , tourism agencies arranged tow sit-in in front of of Hadi’s house. Some of the protesters the pilgrimage attire as to show there are keen to perform Umrah. The protesters said that they denounced the abduction of the Saudi diplomat and urged the kingdom not to “collectively punish them for Al Qaida’s mistake.”