Tehran on Wednesday sent a team for talks in Saudi Arabia on the next annual pilgrimage after missing the hajj in 2016 at a time of rising tensions between the two countries, Iran’s culture minister said.
“A delegation has been sent from the Islamic Republic of Iran to Saudi Arabia to follow up on the hajj,” Culture Minister Reza Salehi Amiri told state television.
“Iran’s policy is to send pilgrims to the hajj (this year), of course, if Saudi Arabia accepts our conditions,” he said.
“In a letter I’ve written to the Saudi hajj minister I have specified our conditions…If they accept our conditions, we will definitely send pilgrims (this) year, otherwise the responsibility” will be on Saudi Arabia, said Amiri.
On January 10, Iran said it had received an official invitation from Saudi Arabia for its pilgrims to attend this year’s hajj.
There was no official Iranian delegation at last year’s pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest sites in western Saudi Arabia after Riyadh severed ties with Tehran following the torching of its missions in Tehran and Mashhad by protesters.
It was the first time in three decades that Iranian pilgrims had been absent and followed years of worsening relations between the two Gulf neighbours and regional rivals over the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.
Negotiations for Iranian pilgrims to join last year’s pilgrimage broke down over where their visas should be issued and over security.
Iran says 464 of its nationals were killed in the 2015 stampede outside Mecca.
They were among more than 2,300 people killed in the worst ever disaster to strike the hajj – one of the five pillars of Islam – which capable Muslims must perform at least once.