In a Sunday meeting with the staff of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization, Hojatoleslam Ali Qazi-Askar said Iranian officials have made whatever efforts necessary for Iranian pilgrims to take part in this year’s Hajj.
However, he decried the Saudi Arabian authorities for their refusal to hold the preparatory talks on various issues pertaining to the Iranian pilgrims, arguing that such conduct implies that Riyadh does not want participation of Iranians in the Hajj pilgrimage.
Although Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister has announced that the issue of Hajj has not to do with the political disputes between Tehran and Riyadh, there is a contradiction between their words and deeds, Qazi-Askar deplored.
Riyadh has been refusing to give Iranian representatives visas for a visit to Saudi Arabia to work out how Iranians would make this year’s Hajj pilgrimage.
Saudis have twice postponed the meetings they had pledged to hold with the Iranian officials for negotiations.
Iran insists that the safety of travelers to Saudi Arabia must be ensured, given the disaster in Mina that killed many Iranian pilgrims last year.
More than 460 Iranians were among the thousands of pilgrims who died on September 24, 2015, in a crush in Mina, near Mecca, during the Hajj pilgrimage.
The incident marked the worst ever Hajj-related tragedy.
There have been doubts about participation of Iranian pilgrims in the 2016 Hajj since tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia ran high last month following Riyadh’s execution of prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, and a subsequent attack by outraged Iranian protesters on the Saudi embassy in Tehran, which resulted in the Arab country’s decision to sever its ties with the Islamic Republic.
Although Iranian officials criticized the embassy attack and those involved in the attack have been brought to justice, Saudi Arabia has cut off all diplomatic relations with Iran.