Iran-Saudi Hajj talks stall over visa issues

Iran-Saudi Hajj talks stall over visa issues
Hajj negotiations between Iranian and Saudi officials have stumbled due to a lack of representatives in the rival countries, after a diplomatic row earlier this year.
2 min read
19 April, 2016
Millions of Muslims make the annual pilgrimage to Makkah every year [Getty]
Talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia discussing this year's annual Hajj pilgrimage have stalled due to disagreements on visa applications.

Four days of otherwise successful negotiations between the regional rivals came to a halt because of the absence of formal diplomatic relations between the two countries.

"The problem of visa issuance has not been solved yet," said Said Ohadi, head of the Iranian Hajj Organisation. "Saudi Arabia has not yet offered a clear solution."

Due to the lack of a functioning Saudi embassy in Tehran, authorities are unable to issue Iranians with Hajj visas.

Iran maintained it will provide "all means necessary" to help Saudi Arabia issue visas in Iran - but did not reveal details of how the process could be completed in the absence of an embassy or consulate.

Diplomatic relations between the two countries deteriorated earlier this year after Iranians stormed the Saudi mission in Tehran in response to the execution in Riyadh of Nimr al-Nimr, a popular Shia cleric and activist.

Security concerns were among other issues discussed between the fierce regional adversaries.

A massive stampede killed more than 2,000 foreign pilgrims, including 464 Iranians, during last year's annual pilgrimage.

"The Saudis offered good solutions on security," introducing electronic tracking bracelets for all hajj participants, Ohadi said.

Aircraft carrying Hajj pilgrims have also been permitted to land in Saudi Arabia, despite the kingdom banning Iranian flights from landing as part of the diplomatic row.

This year's pilgrimage to Mecca - a trip that all able-bodied Muslims are expected to perform at least once - is due to take place in September.