Tehran: Iran said on Tuesday it had finally received an official invitation from Saudi Arabia for its pilgrims to attend this year’s Haj, two weeks after Riyadh announced it.
There was no official Iranian delegation at last year’s pilgrimage to the Muslim holy places after Saudi Arabia severed relations with Iran following the torching of its missions in Tehran and Mashhad by protesters last January.
It was the first time in three decades that Iranian pilgrims had been absent and the culmination of years of worsening relations over the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.
The tone is “not that much different from past letters”, Haj affairs representative Ali Ghazi Askar said, adding that Iran would respond in the coming days.
“All matters regarding Haj — including accommodation, food, medical affairs, transport, pilgrims’ security, banking and consular issues — must immediately be studied and appropriate solutions put forward.”
Negotiations for Iranian pilgrims to join last year’s Haj broke down over questions of where their visas should be issued and how their security could be assured following the deaths of 464 in a stampede at the 2015 Haj.
The Saudi-owned Al Hayat newspaper reported on December 30 that Saudi pilgrimage minister Mohammad Bentin had opened discussions with more than 80 countries, including Iran, on the arrangements for the 2017 Haj.
There was no immediate word on when or where the discussions might take place.