RIYADH (Staff Report) – The Saudi cabinet, in a meeting chaired by King Salman, reiterated its opposition to Iran’s decision to bar its citizens from undertaking the Hajj pilgrimage this year.
Iran, on the other hand, has expressed its concerns over Saudi Hajj policy, saying it is against Iranian Muslims as they cannot perform pilgrimage amidst their diplomatic rift with Saudis.
Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet of Ministers yesterday reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring Muslims from around the world can perform the pilgrimage.
The Saudi Press Agency reported that the kingdom ‘welcomes and is honored in serving pilgrims, Umrah performers and visitors of all nationalities and it does not prevent any Muslim from coming to the holy lands’.
The cabinet discussed how officials from the kingdom had met with representatives for the affairs of Hajj of the Islamic Republic of Iran to discuss arrangements and requirements of Iranian pilgrims’ affairs like others from around the world.
It was revealed during this meeting that the Iranian delegation refused to sign the minutes of the agreement to complete arrangements for their pilgrims, the cabinet was told in a meeting chaired by Saudi’s King Salman.
The meeting heard that the decision to prevent Iranian citizens from performing Hajj rites was due to officials from their country ‘who will be responsible in front of Allah Almighty and the entire world’.
The statement went on to stress Saudi Arabia’s rejection of Iranian attempts to put obstacles to prevent the arrival of Iranian pilgrims aiming to politicize Hajj rites and exploit them for harming the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Sources from Iran embassy in Pakistan said that Saudi Arabia was not willing to grant Hajj visas and security to Iranians due to the recent rift between two countries. Therefore Iranian Muslims will miss the annual hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in September.
Regional rivals Tehran and Riyadh have cut off diplomatic ties since January this year.
Last year’s hajj was marred by the death of over 2,000 pilgrims, 464 of them Iranian, in a stampede during the crowded pilgrimage to Makkah, Islam’s holiest city.
Though Iranian and Saudi officials have held talks to resolve the rift, they have so far failed to make progress in this regard, according to the Iranian side.
Saudis “did not accept Iranian proposals on security, transportation and visa issuing for Iranian pilgrims”, a claim flatly refused by the kingdom.