DUBAI An Iranian official confirmed on Monday that Saudi Arabia had invited Tehran to discuss arrangements for the annual Muslim haj, which Iran boycotted last year after hundreds died in a crush at the 2015 pilgrimage.
Most were Iranians, and the incident infuriated Tehran. Soon after, ties between the two regional rivals worsened further when Saudi Arabia executed a Shi’ite cleric, angry Iranians stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran, and Riyadh severed diplomatic relations.
Last year, Iran did not send any of its citizens to the haj, accusing Saudi Arabia of failing to guarantee safety. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called on Muslim countries to end Saudi control of the pilgrimage, while Riyadh has accused Iran of politicising the 2015 disaster.
On Monday, Ali Ghaziaskar, Khamenei’s representative in haj affairs, said Iran had “officially received Saudi Arabia’s invitation to meet and hold bilateral talks on the haj”.
The state news agency IRNA quoted him as saying the talks would be about accommodation, transportation, safety, medical care, visas and banking, and that Iran would respond in the coming days.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry last week denied reports in two Arabic newspapers that Iran had received an invitation from Saudi Arabia to next year’s haj.
(Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedinl Editing by Kevin Liffey)