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Iran, Saudi Arabia 'sign deal' for 2019 Hajj season

The quota alloted for Iran in 2019 will be 86,500 Iranian pilgrims [Getty]

Date of publication: 19 December, 2018

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Long-time rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia have reached a deal for the 2019 Hajj season allowing Iranian pilgrims to perform next year's rituals in the kingdom.
Long-time rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia have reached a deal for the 2019 Hajj season allowing Iranian pilgrims to perform next year's rituals in the kingdom.

The deal was signed by the head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organisation Alireza Rashidian and officials from the kingdom’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah during a visit to Saudi Arabia, said Iranian news agency Tasnim.

The deal included making "better arrangements for the Iranian pilgrims and preventing the problems they faced in previous years," the report said.

Based on the deal, Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organisation will open a mission in Saudi Arabia and issuing Saudi visas for Iranians will be facilitated, said the agency.

The quota alloted for Iran in 2019 will be 86,500 Iranian pilgrims.

More than 1.8 million faithful took part in last year's hajj. The pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of Islam and all Muslims who can must perform it at least once in their lives.

In 2016, Iran decided not to send pilgrims to Mecca, due to political tensions and a crisis with Riyadh following the death of scores of Iranians the previous year in a stampede at the holy mosque.

The 2015 stampede killed at least 2,177 pilgrims, including 464 Iranians.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are deeply divided over a host of regional issues and back opposite sides in the wars in Syria and Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has been at war with Iran-backed rebels known as Houthis.

Following the Saudi-lec blockade of Qatar, Riyadh was accused of politicising the Hajj, placing hurdles on Qatari pilgrims who are not allowed to fly directly from Qatar to the kingdom. 

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Doha in June last year, accusing Qatar of funding terrorism and cosying up to Iran, Riyadh's regional rival. Doha strongly denies all charges.

Qatari nationals living in the UAE were officially given just 14 days to leave the country, while Qatar Airways was banned from the blockading countries' airspace.

Qatar's only land border with Saudi Arabia was also closed.

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