TEHRAN – In a historic turn of events, Iran and Saudi Arabia have announced a breakthrough agreement to resume Umrah and Hajj flights between the two nations.
The Iranian Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, confirmed on Wednesday that both countries have successfully navigated technical challenges to reinstate vital pilgrimage connections after an eight-year hiatus.
The minister emphasized the importance of recent technical discussions, noting that a delegation from the Saudi Arabian Aviation Organization visited Iran to finalize the intricate details of the agreement.
Amir-Abdollahian also expressed his intent to establish telephonic contact with his Saudi counterpart to review the latest developments, underlining the commitment of both nations to overcoming any obstacles that may arise.
Significantly, Saudi authorities transparently assured their Iranian counterparts that they have issued the necessary instructions to address technical issues, affirming that the resolution process is progressing positively. This encouraging advancement follows the re-establishment of diplomatic ties between the two nations in March 2023, marking a noteworthy thaw in diplomatic relations since the rough patch in 2015.
The relations between the two Muslim countries deteriorated after the 2015 stampede in which around 2000 people lost their lives, including over 400 Iranians in Saudi Arabia.
The Iranian authorities had announced in December last year to resume the flights, stating that an astonishing 5.7 million Iranians were eagerly awaiting the opportunity to participate in Umrah. Furthermore, they expressed their readiness to send between 800,000 to 1 million individuals annually for the Hajj pilgrimage, contingent upon favorable conditions and the cooperation of relevant authorities.
Umrah and Hajj are Islamic pilgrimages undertaken by Muslims. Umrah is a voluntary pilgrimage to Mecca, while Hajj is a mandatory pilgrimage performed during a specific period. Both involve rituals and rites, fostering spiritual growth and unity among Muslims.