Saudi Arabia Invites Iran to Discuss Upcoming Hajj
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Saudi Arabia has invited Iran to discuss a return of its nationals to next year's hajj after Iranians were excluded from the pilgrimage following a major diplomatic row, reports said Friday.
The Al-Hayat daily reported that Riyadh's pilgrims minister Mohammed Bentin had opened discussions with more than 80 countries, including Iran, to work out the details of the 2017 hajj.
"Iran's hajj delegation was invited to come to the kingdom" for preparations, the paper said, AFP reported.
The Arab News daily said Riyadh would welcome pilgrims for hajj and the smaller umra rite "irrespective of their nationalities or sectarian affiliations, including Iranian pilgrims".
More than 1.8 million faithful took part in this year's hajj, but Iranians stayed at home after tensions between Riyadh and Tehran boiled over following a deadly stampede during the 2015 pilgrimage.
On September 24 last year, thousands of people lost their lives in a deadly crush after Saudi authorities blocked a road in Mina during a ritual, forcing large crowds of pilgrims to collide.
The crush was the deadliest incident in the history of the pilgrimage. According to an Associated Press count based on official statements from the 36 countries that lost citizens in the disaster, more than 2,400 pilgrims were killed in the incident.
Saudi Arabia claims nearly 770 people were killed in the incident, but officials at Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization say about 4,700 people, including over 460 Iranian pilgrims, lost their lives.