By Sultan Cogalan
ANKARA (AA) – Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Ankara has denied recent claims that Saudi authorities were preventing Iranian nationals from taking part in this year’s annual Hajj pilgrimage to the cities of Mecca and Medina.
"Saudi Arabia does not consider these issues -- such as the easing of procedures for those wanting to make the pilgrimage and worship in the Holy Land and providing for their comfort and security -- as political," the embassy declared in a Monday statement.
On the contrary, the embassy added, Saudi Arabia "regards these as religious obligations emanating from the Muslim faith, because the sacred places -- including Mecca and Medina -- fall within its borders".
The embassy went on to note that Saudi government officials had recently met with a delegation from the Iranian Authority for Hajj Affairs, but that the latter had refused to sign a memorandum of understanding on procedures for this year’s pilgrimage.
Saudi Arabia, it added, bore "no enmity" toward any particular country and would carry out its responsibility to provide for pilgrims’ security and comfort.
The embassy went on to stress, however, that it would not allow anyone to harm Saudi Arabia's security and stability.
This year’s Hajj pilgrimage will take place in September.
Saudi Arabia cut its diplomatic ties with Iran in January after its diplomatic missions in Tehran and Mashhad were attacked by Iranian protesters following the execution of Nimr Baqir al-Nimr -- a prominent Shia cleric -- by the Saudi authorities.