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Iran sends new delegation to Saudi Arabia for Haj talks

Iran sends new delegation to Saudi Arabia for Haj talks

Tehran: An Iranian delegation was travelling to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday for talks on the annual Haj pilgrimage despite a diplomatic crisis between the Gulf rivals, the official IRNA news agency.

“A delegation of six people will leave this afternoon for Saudi Arabia at the invitation of the Saudi Minister of Haj for negotiations,” it reported Said Ohadi, head of Iran’s Haj Organisation, as saying.

“The talks will be held on Wednesday in Jeddah.”

On May 12, Culture Minister Ali Jannati, who oversees the Haj Organisation, said “arrangements have not been put together” for Iranians to make this year’s pilgrimage to Makkah at the end of the summer.

He accused Riyadh of “sabotage”, but Saudi Arabia has denied blocking Iranian pilgrims.

The two countries held an unsuccessful first round of talks last month in Saudi Arabia on organising this year’s pilgrimage for Iranians.

It was the first dialogue between the region’s powers since diplomatic relations were severed in January.

Riyadh cut ties with Tehran after demonstrators burnt its embassy and a consulate there following the Saudi execution of a Saudi Shiite cleric.

Tehran says Riyadh insists that visas for Iranians be issued in a third country and does not allow pilgrims to be flown in aboard Iranian aircraft, which Iran has rejected.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are at odds over a raft of regional issues, notably the conflicts in Syria and Yemen in which they support opposing sides.

Another contentious issue has been security, after a stampede at last year’s Haj killed about 2,300 foreign pilgrims including 464 Iranians.

On Friday, a senior Saudi religious leader warned against those who would “wreak havoc” under the guise of pilgrimage, an apparent swipe at the Islamic republic.

The annual Haj and the lesser pilgrimage known as Umrah draw millions of faithful to Saudi Arabia from around the world each year.