Riyadh, March 17, 2017: Iranian pilgrims, after an absence last year during tensions between the regional rivals, will participate in this year’s annual Hajj, Saudi Arabia on Friday said.
“The ministry of hajj and the Iranian organization have completed all the necessary measures to ensure Iranian pilgrims perform hajj 1438 according to the procedures followed by all Muslim countries,” the official Saudi Press Agency said, referring to this year in the Islamic calendar.
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For the first time in nearly three decades, Iran’s pilgrims — which would have numbered about 60,000 — did not attend the Hajj in 2016 after the two countries failed to agree on security and logistics.
Riyadh and Tehran have no diplomatic relations, and tensions remain as Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia repeatedly accuses Iran of fuelling regional conflicts by supporting armed Shia movements in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain.
But the Saudi Hajj ministry said that the kingdom, the birthplace of Islam, welcomes “all pilgrims from all the different nationalities and backgrounds”.
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Custodian of Islam’s holiest sites in Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia organises the annual Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam which every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to is obliged to undertake at least once in a lifetime.
Iran boycotted the Hajj for three years between 1988 and 1990 after clashes between Iranian pilgrims and Saudi police in 1987 left around 400 people dead.
Diplomatic ties were restored in 1991, but relations have deteriorated once again in recent years, particularly over the countries’ support for opposing sides in the Syria and Yemen wars.
In January last year, relations were severed again after Iranian demonstrators torched Saudi Arabia’s embassy and a consulate following Saudi Arabia’s execution of a Shia figure along with 47 “terrorists”. (IANS)