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Riyadh Responsible for Facilitating Iranians’ Hajj
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Riyadh Responsible for Facilitating Iranians’ Hajj

A lawmaker said Saudi Arabia's decision to sever bilateral diplomatic ties in the first place makes it responsible for facilitating Iranians' hajj pilgrimage to the Arab kingdom, in case Iran agreed to resume sending pilgrims for the annual ritual.

"The Islamic Republic has not cut relations with any country and it was the Saudis who unilaterally broke off diplomatic ties after the Mina incident under lame excuses and ignored questions [related to the disaster]," Kamal Dehqani told ICANA on Wednesday.

"In the talks with Saudis, our officials should demand measures to facilitate the trip of our country's pilgrims and deal with their visa issues."

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.

Saudi Arabia put the death toll from a human crush in Mina near Mecca in September 2015 at 770 and refused to update it despite gradually surging fatality figures from 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 stampede.  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.

Ties deteriorated further when Saudi Arabia executed a prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in January 2016, angry Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran and Riyadh severed diplomatic relations.

Iranians decided to skip last year's pilgrimage after Riyadh failed to offer safety assurances.

Saudi media reported around the turn of the year that Riyadh's pilgrimage minister, Mohammed Bentin, opened discussions with more than 80 countries, including Iran, to work out the details of the 2017 hajj.

The Arab News daily said Riyadh would welcome pilgrims for hajj and the smaller Umrah rite "irrespective of their nationalities or sectarian affiliations, including Iranian pilgrims", a message that paved the way for revived negotiations between the two regional powers. Iran sent a delegation to Saudi Arabia for talks on the issue last month.

Details of the ongoing consultations have yet to be released.

 

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