Riyadh: The Ministry of Haj and Umrah announced on Thursday that the Iranian delegation had refused to sign an agreement laying out arrangements for this year’s Haj, the Saudi Press Agency reported quoting a ministry statement.
The ministry said Iran has decided to ban its own citizens from performing the pilgrimage.
“Iran is the only country that refused to sign the agreement on Haj. It insisted on a number of unacceptable conditions,” the statement said.
It added that Iran’s demands included the granting visas to their pilgrims from inside Iran and dividing transportation of pilgrims between the Saudi and Iranian airlines, contrary to the internationally recognized practice, according to Saudi Gazette.
Saudi Arabia welcomes all pilgrims from around the world and from all nationalities and sectarian backgrounds and does not stop any Muslim from visiting the holy cities, but the visits must occur within the system and guidelines that organize Haj affairs, the ministry said.
It also clarified that the Saudi authorities did never impose any ban on Iranian pilgrims from visiting the Kingdom to perform Umrah. “Instead, the ban had come from the part of the Iranian government since they take it as one of its many ways to put pressure on the Saudi government,” the statement said.
The ministry stated that Saudi Arabia’s “leadership, government and people welcome and are honored to serve Haj and Umrah pilgrims as well as visitors to the two holy mosques from all nationalities, considering this service as the most important Islamic duty.”
Every year, the ministry invites officials responsible for pilgrimage affairs from Arab and Islamic countries, as well as f non-Muslim countries with a considerable Muslim population to visit the Kingdom to examine and discuss the arrangements and requirements for pilgrims from their respective countries. At least 78 countries, including the Islamic Republic of Iran, send their delegates for such talks every year.
Referring to this year’s Haj arrangements, the ministry said President of the Haj Organization of Iran Saeed Oouhdi had been invited to come to the Kingdom to discuss the arrangements of Iranian pilgrims in line with a letter from the Minister of Haj. Accordingly, a delegation headed by Oouhdi, arrived and discussed with the ministry officials all matters related with the Iranian pilgrims.
As for issuance of visas, the ministry has made it clear that they can obtain Haj visas electronically by furnishing their pilgrims data, using standard electronic system for the foreign pilgrims, the statement added.