Iran seeks quick resolution of issue preventing Umrah travel

Iran seeks quick resolution of issue preventing Umrah travel
Riyadh has so far not issued Tehran with flight permits for travel to the kingdom for the Umrah pilgrimage, but the Iranians hope for a swift resolution.
2 min read
Iran and Saudi signed an agreement ensuring Iranian pilgrims could participate in Umrah [Getty]

Iran hopes technical problems preventing Iranian Muslims from making the Umrah pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia will soon be resolved, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said on Monday.

Iran initially announced in December that the first Umrah pilgrims would travel on Dec. 19 following an agreement between Tehran and Riyadh to allow the pilgrimage to take place after a pause of eight years.

However, this flight and subsequent ones were cancelled due to Riyadh failing to provide "necessary final permits" for the entry of Iranian planes into Saudi airports, the spokesman of Iran Air Hessam Qorbanali had told state TV.

"The relevant authorities have informed that it is just a technical issue and that there is no political dispute as the bilateral agreement regarding Umrah pilgrimage is well-established and Saudi Arabia is committed to it," Kanaani said during a televised press conference on Monday.

Saudi Arabia did not comment on the matter.

Kanaani added that Iran's head of Haj and Pilgrimage was in Saudi Arabia with a team of experts to resolve the problems.

According to semi-official Tasnim news agency, representatives of Iran's Civil Aviation Organisation are also in Saudi Arabia working on the issues.

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China mediated an agreement in March under which Iran and Saudi Arabia resumed full diplomatic relations which were cut in 2016 over Riyadh's execution of a Shi'ite Muslim cleric and the storming of the Saudi embassy in Tehran.

Since 2016, Iranian pilgrims have only been able to complete the Haj pilgrimage, a religious duty deemed compulsory for Muslims which is subject to strict annual quotas and timings.

Umrah, known as the "lesser pilgrimage", can be undertaken at any time of the year and is not generally deemed compulsory in Islam.