Saudi Arabia said talks on Wednesday with visiting Iranian delegates on arrangements for hajj pilgrims from the Islamic republic have been “positive”.
Earlier this month, Tehran said “arrangements have not been put together” for Iranians to make this year’s pilgrimage to Mecca at the end of the summer, accusing Riyadh of “sabotage”.
On Wednesday, Saudi hajj ministry undersecretary Hussein Sharif said the kingdom and its leadership “welcome pilgrims from all around the world”.
The two sides discussed “arrangements, as well as organization and services” for pilgrims, he told reporters after a session of talks with the delegation from Tehran.
He said an agreement had been reached following the arrival of the delegation Tuesday to “use electronic visas which could be printed out” by Iranian pilgrims, as Saudi diplomatic missions remain shut in Iran.
A final agreement would be signed at the end of the ongoing talks, he said.
Tehran had said that Riyadh insists that visas for Iranians be issued in a third country and does not allow pilgrims to be flown in aboard Iranian aircraft, which Iran has rejected.
Sharif did not give a clear answer on the airlines that would be allowed to carry passengers from Iran to Saudi Arabia as air links remain severed.
“Directives concerning the air carrier will come from the Saudi civil aviation authority,” said Sharif.
Tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia intensified after the kingdom’s execution of prominent Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr in January.
Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties and halted flights to and from Iran on January 3 following attacks on vacant Saudi diplomatic premises in Tehran and the city of Mashhad by angry people protesting Nimr’s execution.
More than 2,400 foreign pilgrims, including 464 Iranians, were crushed to death after two large masses of pilgrims converged at a crossroads in Mina, near the holy Saudi city of Mecca, during the symbolic ceremony of the stoning of Satan in Jamarat on September 24, 2015.