Riyadh to host Iranian delegation to discuss hajj

Riyadh to host Iranian delegation to discuss hajj
Saudi Arabia will host an Iranian delegation to discuss the upcoming hajj season, the first official meeting between the two countries since diplomatic ties were severed in January.
2 min read
07 April, 2016
Many Iranians were killed in last year's hajj stampede [Getty]
Iran is planning to send a delegation to Saudi Arabia to discuss the annual hajj pilgrimage, which will be the first official visit between the two nations since they severed ties in January.

According to Saeed Ohadi, the head of Iran's hajj organisation, Tehran was invited by Saudi authorities for a meeting in Riyadh on April 14 to discuss the upcoming pilgrimage in September.

"The fate of this year's hajj will be decided in this meeting," Ohadi said, according to Tasnim news agency.

Last year's hajj saw the catastrophic deaths of over 2,000 pilgrims, some of whom were Iranians, who were killed in a stampede.

The death toll from 2015 made it one of the worst hajj years on record.

Iran says over 450 Iranian pilgrims were killed in the incident, which heightened tensions between the two rival nations, after the Saudi Arabia suggested that the deceased were at fault for not obeying instructions.

Saudi Arabia has also stubbornly stood by its official death toll of 769 for the incident in which the Iranians were killed, despite this number having not being updated since two days after the disaster.

Hajj: a history of tragedies
Saudi Authories have struggled to maintain pilgrim safety during the hajj season

Following the execution of Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr in January, an escalation in hostilities saw attacks on both Saudi diplomatic buildings in Iran.

Saudi Arabia and its Arab Gulf allies responded by cutting off diplomatic ties with Iran.

The execution of al-Nimr's nephew, Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr, is also set to take place at any time, further threatening what remains of relations between Tehran and Riyadh.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia also banned Iranian airliner Mahan Air from using its airports and airspace over "safety concerns".

Saudi authorities cited "violations of national regulations related to safety of international carriers" but did not specify the violations.