The Iranian delegation in charge of discussing Hajj arrangements for Iranians with Saudi Arabia failed to attend a meeting which was scheduled to take place in the city of Jeddah yesterday. The final agreement that would have allowed 63,000 Iranians to perform the Hajj pilgrimage was due to be signed at this meeting.
Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that officials at the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah waited for the arrival of the Iranian delegation led by Saeed Ohadi, the head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organisation yesterday, in order to conclude the meeting that took place on Wednesday. However, the delegation disappeared and did not attend at all.
According to informed sources, the Iranian delegation used the pretext of wanting to perform Umrah and travelling to Makkah from Jeddah, which is at a distance of around 70 km from Makkah, for scheduling the meeting at noon – immediately after the delegation was due to return from the Umrah trip. However, the meeting did not take place. It is well known that the journey from Jeddah to the Holy Mosque in Mecca does not take more than 45 minutes, and that it takes about two, or three hours in the event of overcrowding, to perform Umrah.
At an earlier meeting held a few months ago in Jeddah, Iran declined to sign the agreement. It later changed its mind and sent a delegation to discuss arrangements for its citizens to perform the Hajj which resulted in a meeting between the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah and the Hajj and Pilgrimage Organisation delegation in Jeddah on Wednesday.
During the meeting, the two sides reached a tentative agreement regarding consular services, issuing visas and air transport, and decided to defer final decision making on other arrangements concerning transportation and accommodation to Thursday but this did not happen.