Saudi Rejects Iran’s Conditions on Hajj; No Deal Yet: Official

Saudi Rejects Iran’s Conditions on Hajj; No Deal Yet: Official

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization Saeed Ohadi said Saudi Arabia has refused to accept Iran’s conditions on arrangements for Iranians to attend this year’s Hajj pilgrimage.

In a televised interview on Friday night, Ohadi said 6 out of the 11 provisions were eliminated from the deal in the latest round of talks with Saudi officials as they were against the Iranian nation’s dignity.

He added the five remaining areas of disagreements have been left unsettled due to meddling by other Saudi organizations in preparing the text of the agreement.

On Tuesday, an Iranian delegation traveled to Saudi Arabia at the official invitation of new Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah Mohammad Saleh bin Taher Benten to hold last-ditch talks with the Arab kingdom’s officials on the dispatch of Iranian pilgrims for the annual rituals in September.

Ohadi further said that the Iranian delegation will return to the country, adding that the Islamic Republic has set Sunday as a deadline for the Saudis to announce their decision.

A lack of coordination between the Saudi ministries of foreign affairs and Hajj is the main reason behind the prolonged talks, he added.

On Wednesday, a senior Saudi Hajj official said talks with visiting Iranian delegation for this year’s Hajj pilgrimage have been “positive.”

The two sides discussed “arrangements, as well as organization and services” for pilgrims, Hussein Sharif, the Saudi Hajj and Umrah Ministry undersecretary, said after a meeting with the Iranian delegates.

Now Saudi media outlets are blaming Iran for walking out of the talks, claiming that the Saudi side has offered "solutions" to Tehran's demands.

Tehran has insisted in the talks that visas for Iranian pilgrims should be issued in Iran and that the safety of travelers to Saudi Arabia must be ensured, given the disaster in Mina that killed many pilgrims in the previous Hajj pilgrimage.

More than 460 Iranians were among the thousands of pilgrims who died on September 24, 2015, in a crush in Mina, near Mecca, during the Hajj pilgrimage.

The incident marked the worst ever tragedy during Hajj.

There have been doubts about participation of Iranian pilgrims in the 2016 Hajj since tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia ran high following Riyadh’s execution of prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, and a subsequent attack by outraged Iranian protesters on the Saudi embassy in Tehran, which resulted in the Arab country’s decision to sever its ties with the Islamic Republic.

Although Iranian officials criticized the embassy attack and those involved in the attack have been brought to justice, Saudi Arabia has cut off all diplomatic relations with Iran.

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