RIYADH: Iranian pilgrims will participate in this year’s annual hajj, Saudi Arabia said on Friday, after an absence last year during tensions between the regional rivals.
“The ministry of hajj and the Iranian organisation have completed all the necessary measures to ensure Iranian pilgrims perform hajj 1438 according to the procedures followed by all Muslim countries,” the official Saudi Press Agency said, referring to this year in the Islamic calendar.
Iran's Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization said Iranians will be attending this year’s Hajj after Saudi officials agreed to make the necessary arrangements for Iranian pilgrims to participate in the rituals.
"Considering the heavy emphasis of Supreme Leader Seyyed Ali Khamenei, Iranian officials and nation on the protection of the security, dignity and honour of Iranian pilgrims and the facilitation of the provision of consular, medical and other crucial services to Iranian pilgrims, an agreement has been reached with Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Haj and Umra on the dispatch of more than 85,000 Iranian pilgrims to Hajj this year", the organization announced in a statement on Friday.
Iran decided to stop sending pilgrims to Hajj over security concerns after two deadly incidents claimed the lives of more than 470 Iranian pilgrims during the 2015 Hajj rituals.
Days after the deadly human crush, which occurred in September 2015, Saudi Arabia published a death toll of 770 but refused to update it despite gradually surging fatality figures from individual countries whose nationals had been among the victims of the crush. Iran said about 4,700 people, including over 465 of its nationals, lost their lives in the incident.
Earlier that month, a massive construction crane had collapsed into Mecca’s Grand Mosque, killing more than 100 pilgrims, including 11 Iranians, and injuring over 200 others, among them 32 Iranian nationals.
Riyadh and Tehran have no diplomatic relations, and tensions remain as pro-US Saudi Arabia repeatedly accuses Iran of fuelling regional conflicts by supporting resistance movements in Syria, Gaza, Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain.
But the Saudi hajj ministry said on Friday that the kingdom, the birthplace of Islam and custodian of its holiest sites, welcomes “all pilgrims from all the different nationalities and backgrounds”.