Iranian delegation to visit Saudi Arabia over Hajj
The representative of Leader of the Islamic Revolution for Hajj and Pilgrimage Affairs Hojjatoleslam Seyyed Ali Qazi-Askar said a delegation from Iran is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia on February 23 to discuss next annual Hajj pilgrimage.
He said the visit comes following an invitation his organization has received from Saudi Arabia to discuss preparations for the next annual Hajj pilgrimage, IRNA reported.
Qazi-Askar said the delegation will outline Iran’s views during talks with Saudi officials, expressing hope that it would facilitate preparations for the coming rituals.
Qazi-Akar said Iranian pilgrims will not attend the Hajj ritual before our conditions are met, stressing that nothing about the next ritual is yet definite for Iran as there are many issues to be settled.
The Caretaker of Iran's Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization Hamid Mohammadi had said earlier that Iran' main pre-condition for sending pilgrims to Hajj rituals is to get security guarantees from the Saudi government.
The talks would focus on accommodation, transportation, safety, medical care, visas and banking, Qazi-Akar said on Monday.
In September 2015, a deadly human crush occurred during Hajj rituals in Mina, near Mecca. Days into the incident, 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 same 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.
Serious questions were raised about the competence of Saudi authorities to manage the Hajj rituals in the wake of the incidents, and, facing Saudi intransigence to cooperate and refusal to guarantee the safety of Iranian pilgrims, officials in the Islamic Republic subsequently decided to halt pilgrimages over security concerns.
Saudi Arabia unilaterally severed its diplomatic ties with Iran in January this year after protests in front of its diplomatic premises in Tehran and Mashhad against the execution by Riyadh of prominent Saudi Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.