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Iran refuses to sign Haj agreement for second time
Saturday May 28, 2016 9:44 AM, Agencies

An Iranian delegation wrapped up its visit to Saudi Arabia on Friday without signing a final agreement on arrangements for Haj pilgrimage, the Ministry of Haj and Umrah has said.

Marathon talks continued on Wednesday and Thursday, with both sides raising all topics that had figured in the previous round. The ministry suggested a number of solutions for all issued raised by the Iranian side.

The ministry said the delegation decided return home without signing the final agreement despite two days of extensive talks, Saudi Gazette reported.

“The Iranian Organization of Haj and Visit will be held responsible before God and the people of Iran for the inability of its pilgrims to perform Haj this year,” the ministry said in a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency.

The ministry said it offered many solutions to meet a string of demands made by the Iranian delegation, which arrived in the Kingdom on Tuesday.

Agreements had been reached in some areas, including electronic visa issuance as Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran remain closed. Riyadh cut ties with Tehran in January after protesters torched the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and the consulate in Mashhad.

The ministry said Riyadh agreed to allow Iranians to obtain visas through the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, which is looking after Saudi interests since the countries severed ties.

The Kingdom also agreed to allow Iranian carriers to fly half of the pilgrims into the Kingdom and back despite a ban on Iranian airlines following the diplomatic row, the ministry said.

The talks were the second attempt by both countries after an unsuccessful first round last month to iron out differences and reach a deal on organizing this year’s Haj journey for Iranian pilgrims.

According to the statement, the ministry formally received the delegation and provided all facilities for the members, including arrangements to perform Umrah.

The ministry clarified that the Kingdom has reiterated its categorical rejection of attempts to politicize Haj rituals.

Press TV - a pro Iranian channel, however quoted the head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization as saying that Saudi Arabia refused to accept Tehran's conditions in a deal that guarantees "preserving the dignity of Iranian pilgrims" during this year’s Hajj pilgrimage.

Tehran had banned its pilgrims from coming to the Kingdom to perform Umrah this year.

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