Riyadh and Tehran in standoff . This year no Iranian Hajj pilgrims

Iranian Minister of Culture blames Saudis "cold and inappropriate attitude". Claims Riyadh "sabotage" to prevent participation in most important pilgrimage. Now it's "too late" for a fallback solution. Failure to reach agreement over issuing of visas.


Tehran (AsiaNews / Agencies) – There will be no Iranian citizens on the Hajj, the most important traditional pilgrimage to the centre of Islam  Mecca this year in September. Tehran and Riyadh, long at loggerheads for the assault on the Saudi embassy in Iran in response to the execution of a Shiite dignitary in the kingdom, have failed to reach an agreement on visas and the accommodation for pilgrims.

Iranian Culture Minister, Ali Jannati made the announcement on the official IRNA TV stating that "the conditions" were not met and now it is "too late" to find a solution. He further added that the reason for the lack of agreement is due "toour Saudi counterparts" and an attempted "sabotage". "Their [the Saudis] attitude - says the Iranian minister - was cold and inappropriate. They did not accept our proposals on the issuance of visas, the mode of transportation, or personal safety of the pilgrims. "

Riyadh officials have invited Iranian Muslims to "travel to a third country" to "request visas". In contrast, Iran claims that the permits will be granted through the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, which also Riyadh after the closure of the Saudi embassy.

Last month an Iranian delegation met with senior Saudi officials for four days, in an attempt to reach an agreement, trying to capitalize on the timid "thaw" between the two regional powers on visas for the Hajj. However, the summit ended with a stalemate.

Relations between the two greatest powers in the Muslim world have been at an historic low since September 2015, following the tragic accident during the last major pilgrimage to Mecca.

 A stampede in Mina, near Mecca, caused hundreds of casualties, 2070 dead according to statistics reported by Reuters. Iran had immediately accused the Saudi authorities of "mismanagement" and "incompetence" to the point of suggesting that the incident was premeditated.

The Hajj (pilgrimage) is considered one of the five pillars of Islam and every good Muslim should perform it at least once in his life time. Saudi Arabia has often politically exploited permission to come to Mecca. For example, for years Syrians were forbidden to travel to the Muslim holy cities.