Middle East

Iran 'will not send pilgrims to Saudi Arabia' for Hajj

Muslim pilgrims at the Hajj (September 2015) Image copyright AP
Image caption Millions of Muslim pilgrims from all over the world attend the annual Hajj

Iranians will not make the Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia this year after talks failed to break an impasse, an Iranian minister has said.

Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Ali Jannati said the Saudis had played a "destructive" role in negotiations, Iranian news agency Irna reported.

Saudi Arabia has not commented on Mr Jannati's remarks.

Iranian-Saudi tensions soared earlier this year after Saudi Arabia executed a dissident Shia cleric.

Saudi Arabia broke off diplomatic ties and halted flights to and from Iran after Iranians stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran over the death of the cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr

Last year, more than 460 Iranians were killed in a stampede at the Hajj, which Iran blamed on Saudi "mismanagement".

Sticking points in the talks centre around the issuing of visas and security arrangements for the Hajj.

"The sabotage is coming from the Saudis. Their attitude was cold and inappropriate," Mr Jannati said.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption More than 2,000 pilgrims died in the stampede during the Hajj in 2015, including more than 460 Iranians

Because Saudi Arabia does not have a diplomatic mission in Tehran any longer, it wants Iranian pilgrims to travel to a third country to obtain a visa.

But Iran wants Saudi Arabia to issue visas through the Swiss embassy in Tehran, which has looked after Saudi interests since Riyadh broke off ties.

Mr Janati also said Saudi Arabia had not accepted Iranian proposals for the security and transportation of the Iranian pilgrims.

Majority-Shia Iran and leading Sunni power Saudi Arabia are at loggerheads over a number regional issues, including support for opposing sides in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

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