No Iranian pilgrims in Hajj 2016

Iran will not send pilgrims to perform the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca this year after Tehran and Riyadh fail to agree terms on issuing Saudi visas to Iranians.

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Construction towers seen over the skyline of Mecca

Iranians are set to miss out on the Hajj pilgrimage this year after representatives from Tehran failed to agree with their Saudi hosts over a deal to allow Iranians to make the trek to Mecca in September.

Talks started last month amid a diplomatic crisis between Saudi Arabia and Iran after the two rival powers severed ties in January.

But the first talks since Riyadh closed down its missions in Iran in response to the ransacking of its Tehran embassy did not go well.

Tehran has asked Riyadh to issue visas to Iranian citizens looking to make the pilgrimage using the Swiss embassy in Tehran.

Muslim pilgrims on the mount of Arafat [also known as mount of Mercy], wearing white robes.

Iran's Culture Minister Ali Jannati, speaking to state news, blamed Saudi officials for the deadlock.

"Their attitude was cold and inappropriate. They did not accept our proposals concerning the issuing of visas or the transport and security of the pilgrims," he said, calling their behaviour "sabotage."

"Saudi officials say our pilgrims must travel to another country to make their visa applications," he added.

Iranian Hajj Organisation chief Said Ohadi also said that Saudi Arabia had refused to lift a ban stopping Iranian airline firms from landing planes in the kingdom.

"Unfortunately in Saudi Arabia there is a very hostile political climate towards Iran," Ohadi said.

Relations between Riyadh and Tehran were shaken in last year’s Hajj pilgrimage after a stampede killed at least 2,411 people, according to the Associated Press. With 464 deaths, Iran suffered the most casualties.

Saudi Arabia, a Sunni powerhouse in the Middle East, and Iran, its Shiite rival in the region, have long been at loggerheads.

Clashes between Saudi security forces and Iranian pilgrims during the Hajj pilgrimage in 1987 that left around 400 dead, including 275 Iranians, also led to the two countries freezing ties until 1991.

Riyadh and Tehran also support opposing sides in conflicts such as Yemen and Syria.