Tehran asks Baghdad to mediate the release of an Iranian pilgrim detained in Saudi Arabia


Shafaq News/ Iran is seeking the release of one of its nationals it says was arrested in Saudi Arabia during the pilgrimage, as the two regional rivals appear poised to resume contacts aimed at restoring relations.

Earlier this month, Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian 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.

The head of Iran's Pilgrimage Organization, Alireza Sadiqi, said that Amirabdollahian is sparing no effort to release the detained pilgrim, Khalil Darmand.

"The organization's representative is keeping tabs on the issue in Saudi Arabia. He is awaiting instructions to proceed," Sadiqi to the semi-official "Fars" media agency.

Sadiqi said that the Iranian consulate in Jeddah and Embassy in Riyadh should be in charge of these issues under normal circumstances. "However, since they are not operating, a consular delegation shall accompany the pilgrimage organization delegation that deals with such situation."

"The organization has managed several similar cases along with the consular team. Many detained pilgrims were released. Mr. Darmand is the only pilgrim who is still in custody," he continued.

Darmand was arrested for snapping a selfie near the Kaaba, a Muslim holy site in Mecca. Taking pictures inside the holy mosque banned by law, but is often overlooked by the security personnel. Iranian media said that the Saudi authorities cracks down on Shiite pilgrims, particularly Iranians, intentionally for such minor acts but ignores non-Shiites.

Tehran and Riyadh, the leading Shiite and Sunni Muslim powerhouses in the Middle East, severed ties in 2016 with both parties backing opposite sides in proxy wars across the region.

In May, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said there had been some progress in the Iraq-mediated talks with Iran but "not enough."

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