TEHRAN (Web Desk) – Iran has said it will not allow its citizens to take part in this year’s Hajj pilgrimage in Makkah, blaming Saudi officials for prompting such a decision by raising various “obstacles”.
“After two series of negotiations without any results because of obstacles raised by the Saudis, Iranian pilgrims will unfortunately not be able to take part in the hajj” pilgrimage, expected this year in September, Iranian culture minister Ali Jannati told state television on Sunday.
Saudi officials have said an Iranian delegation wrapped up a visit to the Kingdom on Friday without reaching a final agreement on arrangements for hajj pilgrims from the Islamic republic.
The Saudi hajj ministry said it had offered “many solutions” to meet a string of demands made by the Iranians in two days of talks, the Al Arabiya reports.
Agreements had been reached in some areas, including the use of electronic visas which could be printed out by Iranian pilgrims, as Saudi diplomatic missions remain shut in Iran, the ministry said.
Riyadh cut ties with Tehran in January after Iranian demonstrators torched its embassy and a consulate following its execution of a prominent Shia preacher.
Earlier this month, Iran had accused its regional rival of seeking to “sabotage” the hajj, a pillar of Islam that devout Muslims must perform at least once during their lifetime if they are able.
Tehran said Riyadh had insisted that visas for Iranians be issued in a third country and would not allow pilgrims to be flown aboard Iranian aircraft.
But the Saudi hajj ministry said on Friday that Riyadh had agreed to allow Iranians to obtain visas through the Swiss embassy in Tehran, which has looked after Saudi interests in the country since it severed ties with Iran in January.
Riyadh also agreed to allow some Iranian carriers to fly pilgrims to the Kingdom despite a ban imposed on Iranian airlines following the diplomatic row between the two countries, the ministry said.
Last week’s talks were the second attempt by the two countries to reach a deal on organizing this year’s pilgrimage for Iranians after an unsuccessful first round of negotiations were held in April in Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi ministry said at the time that the Iranian Hajj Organization would be held responsible “in front of God and the people for the inability of its pilgrims to perform hajj this year.”