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Saudis’ Good Treatment of Iranian Pilgrims May Lead to Thaw in Ties: MP

The chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission hailed Saudis’ good behavior toward Iranian Hajj pilgrims and expressed optimism about the possible thaw of relations between Tehran and Riyadh.

“Good behavior toward the (Iranian) pilgrims is one of Saudi Arabia’s messages in line with more interaction with Iran,” Hojatoleslam Mojtaba Zonnoor told Tasnim.

“Up to this day, they (Saudis) have behaved hospitably and if they continue this path, there would be a thaw of relations with Saudi Arabia as we are witnessing it with the existing signs,” the lawmaker added.

During a visit to Saudi Arabia in December 2018, Head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization Alireza Rashidian held meetings with officials from the kingdom’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah about the 2019 Hajj season.

The two sides signed an agreement at the conclusion of the meetings, aimed at making better arrangements for Iranian pilgrims and preventing the problems they faced in previous years.

The agreement stipulated that 86,500 Iranian pilgrims would go on pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in the 2019 Hajj season.

In 2016, more than 1.8 million pilgrims attended Hajj, but Iranians stayed at home after tensions between Riyadh and Tehran boiled over following a deadly crush of people during the 2015 pilgrimage.

On September 2, 2015, thousands of people lost their lives in the deadly crush after Saudi authorities blocked a road in Mina during a ritual, forcing large crowds of pilgrims to collide.

The crush was the deadliest incident in the history of the pilgrimage. According to an Associated Press count based on official statements from the 36 countries that lost citizens in the disaster, more than 2,400 pilgrims were killed in the incident.

Saudi Arabia claims nearly 770 people were killed, but officials at Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization say about 4,700 people, including over 460 Iranian pilgrims, lost their lives.

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