Head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization Hamid Mohammadi denied reports that Saudi Arabia has invited the Islamic Republic’s delegation to discuss resumption of Hajj pilgrimages by Iranians.
"So far, no invitation from Saudi Arabia has been received by the Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization or Foreign Ministry,” Mohammadi said on Sunday.
The Al-Hayat daily reported in late December that Riyadh’s Hajj minister Mohammed Bentin had opened discussions with more than 80 countries, including Iran, to work out the details of the 2017 Hajj.
"Iran’s Hajj delegation was invited to come to the kingdom” for preparations, the paper said.
Mohammadi dismissed the report, saying Iran has not received an invitation as of yet.
He said Tehran is doing everything in its powers for resumption of the Hajj pilgrimage for Iranians so that Iranian pilgrims, like all other Muslims, can benefit from their undeniable right of participating in Hajj.
The official added that if such an invitation is extended and the conditions demanded by Tehran for guaranteeing the safety and dignity of Iranian pilgrims are met by the Saudi side, grounds will hopefully be set for the participation of Iranians in this year’s Hajj.
More than 1.8 million faithful took part in last year’s Hajj, but Iranians stayed at home after tensions between Riyadh and Tehran boiled over following a deadly stampede during the 2015 pilgrimage.
On September 2, 2015, thousands of people lost their lives in a deadly crush after Saudi authorities blocked a road in Mina during a ritual, forcing large crowds of pilgrims to collide.
The crush was the deadliest incident in the history of the pilgrimage. According to an Associated Press count based on official statements from the 36 countries that lost citizens in the disaster, more than 2,400 pilgrims were killed in the incident.
Saudi Arabia claims nearly 770 people were killed in the incident, but officials at Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization say about 4,700 people, including over 460 Iranian pilgrims, lost their lives.