TEHRAN -- Iran is seeking the release of one of its nationals it says was arrested in Saudi Arabia during the hajh pilgrimage, as the two regional powerhouses appear poised to resume contacts aimed at restoring relations.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Hussein Amir-Abdollahian raised the issue during a call with his Iraqi counterpart in which he asked for the incident to be followed up by Iraq, which has hosted several rounds of Iranian-Saudi talks.
“In this call, our foreign minister (Amir-Abdollahian) pursued the fate of an Iranian compatriot arrested during the hajj in Saudi Arabia and asked that a message be conveyed towards his release,” Iranian media reported.
No details of the reported arrest during the annual Muslim hajj pilgrimage, which was held in July, were given.
Iranian media reported earlier that Saudi authorities arrested several Iranian pilgrims during this year’s hajj on charges such as taking photos near the holy Kaaba or wearing a scarf bearing the photo of anti-terror commander Qassem Soleimani, who was assassinated by the U.S. in Iraq more than two years ago.
Those criticizes, however, were released after a few days.
In May, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said there had been some progress in the Iraq-mediated talks with Iran but “not enough.”
Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with Iran in January 2016 after Iranian protesters, enraged by the Saudi execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, stormed its embassy in Tehran.
Elsewhere in their conversation, the top Iranian diplomat pointed to wildfires that are burning at reed beds in southern Iraqi regions, noting that the smoke of the fire is “seriously” affecting Khuzestan province in southwest Iran.
Amir-Abdollahian said Iran is ready to perform joint operations to put out the fire swiftly.
The Iraqi foreign minister, for his part, welcomed Tehran’s offer to assist his country in extinguishing the fire.
The two sides also conferred on a host of other issues of mutual interest including the latest status of the ongoing negotiations in Vienna on the removal of anti-Iranian sanctions by reviving the 2015 nuclear deal, which was abandoned by the US in 2018.