Iran, Saudi Arabia come to terms regarding Hajj pilgrimage

Iranian pilgrims will participate in this year's Hajj in Saudi Arabia after a one-year absence, what seen as a rare promising spot in stalled relations between the two regional rivals. The announcement Friday signals a softening of rhetoric between the two enemies only a year after Tehran questioned the royal kingdom's ability to host a safe trip for pilgrims.

The news agency said the arrangements were completed after a meeting took place with an Iranian delegation on February 23.

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For the first time in almost three decades, Iran's pilgrims - which would have numbered about 60,000 - did not attend the Hajj in 2016 after the two countries failed to agree on security and logistics. Saudi Arabia has sought to increase its oil sales to China, also the world's second-largest oil market, after losing some of its market share to Russian Federation in 2016.

Earlier that month, a massive construction crane had collapsed into Mecca's Grand Mosque, killing more than 100 pilgrims, including 11 Iranians, and injuring over 200 others, among them 32 Iranian nationals. Saudi Arabia has still refrained from paying the money for those killed in the bitter incident in Mecca.

Saudi Arabia's King Salman, who was on an official tour in Asia, has left China to head back to his kingdom, the state news agency SPA reported on Saturday.

Saudi Arabia repeatedly accuses Iran of fuelling conflicts by supporting armed Shia movements in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and Bahrain.

Under the pillars of Islam, able-bodied Muslims must travel for the hajj at least once in their lives if they can afford to. Saudi Arabia put the death toll at 769, whereas independent counts by countries repatriating bodies suggest as many as 2,426 people may have died.

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