IRANIAN pilgrims will participate in this year’s annual Haj.
For the first time in nearly three decades Iranian pilgrims — which would have numbered about 60,000 — did not attend last year’s Haj after Riyadh and Tehran failed to agree on security and logistics.
Tensions remain as Saudi Arabia repeatedly accuses Iran of fueling conflicts by supporting armed Shiite movements in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain.
But after talks between the two sides, the Iranians will join this year’s ritual which takes place at the beginning of September.
“The Ministry of Haj and Umrah and the Iranian organization for Haj and Ziyarah have completed all the necessary measures to ensure Iranian pilgrims perform Haj 1438 according to the procedures followed by all Muslim countries,” the official Saudi Press Agency said, referring to this year in the Islamic calendar.
The Haj ministry said that the Kingdom, home to Islam’s holiest sites, welcomes “all pilgrims from all the different nationalities and backgrounds”.
In December, Minister of Haj and Umrah Muhammad Bantan, had invited Iran to discuss arrangements for this year’s Haj. But, an Iranian delegation visited Saudi Arabia in February for talks.
In early March, Iran said there had been progress.
“Most of the questions up for discussion have been resolved and a couple of issues are remaining,” an Iranian news agency quoted Ali Ghazi Askar, the Iranian supreme leader’s representative for Haj affairs, as saying.
“If those questions are resolved, we hope pilgrims will soon be sent to Saudi Arabia.”
More than 1.8 million faithful took part in last year’s Hajj. The pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of Islam and all Muslims who can must perform it at least once in their lives.
Iranian pilgrims have for the past two years not been coming to perform Umrah, a lesser pilgrimage which occurs outside Haj.
Tehran suspended its Umrah participation over an alleged assault of two Iranian teenage boys at Jeddah airport in early 2015.
Ghazi Askar said Iran had raised this issue as well, and if the culprits were punished, “the lesser Haj will also be restored”.
Despite agreement on the Haj, Riyadh maintains its criticism of Iran, as highlighted in talks on Tuesday between Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, second deputy premier and minister of defense and US President Donald Trump.
The two leaders “noted the importance of confronting Iran’s destabilizing regional activities”, the White House said. — With input from Agencies