An Iranian delegation, which is currently in Saudi Arabia for talks on the potential resumption of Hajj pilgrimages by Iranians, has held a second meeting with Saudi Arabian Pilgrimage Minister Mohammed Bentin.
The delegation met with the Saudi minister at the Pilgrimage Ministry in Jeddah for a second time on Friday, IRNA reported, citing Saudi media reports. The two sides had held a first meeting in the Saudi port city on Thursday.
The meetings have been taking place within the framework of official talks between Bentin and the representatives of various Muslim countries to set the arrangements needed to enable the pilgrimage. The talks address such issues as the manner of the pilgrims’ reception on arrival in Saudi Arabia and their accommodation and transport around.
Iran has suspended Hajj pilgrimages by its nationals to Saudi Arabia because of serious security concerns.
In September 2015, a deadly human crush occurred during Hajj rituals in Mina, near the Saudi holy city of Mecca. Unofficial sources put the death toll from the crush at almost 7,000 people. Over 460 Iranians lost their lives in the incident, the highest fatality toll for a single country.
Saudi Arabia refused to take responsibility or even announce an overall death toll.
Earlier that same month, a massive construction crane had collapsed into Mecca’s Grand Mosque, killing more than 100 pilgrims, including 11 Iranians, and injuring over 200 others, including 32 nationals from Iran.
Questions were raised about whether Saudi authorities could prevent the repetition of such accidents and loss of life; and, facing Saudi intransigence to cooperate and refusal to guarantee the safety of Iranian pilgrims, officials in the Islamic Republic subsequently decided to suspend pilgrimages over security concerns.Saudi Arabia also unilaterally severed its diplomatic ties with Iran in January last year after protests in front of its diplomatic premises in Tehran and Mashhad.
Last December, however, the Saudi minister invited the Islamic Republic to discussions on the prospect of the resumption of the pilgrimages by Iranians. Iran responded and later sent the delegation for talks.
At the Friday meeting, the Iranian delegates laid out Iran’s stance on the matter, detailed its expectations, and emphasized the Saudi obligation to respect the pilgrims’ rights.
Bentin explained plans concerning the 2017 pilgrimage and hoped that the next round of the rituals will see the participation of Iranian pilgrims, too.
The two sides are slated to address various aspects of the issue over upcoming meetings.