Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says Saudi Arabia has taken the holy sites of Islam hostage in order to implement its spiteful policies and serve the arrogant powers and the Israeli regime.
“The Al Saud regime, which has brazenly revealed its age-old alliance with the Zionist enemy, is taking the holy Islamic sites hostage to realize its lowly and spiteful sectarian and political policies and use them to serve the arrogance and the Zionism,” Zarif said in a message on Sunday to commemorate the first anniversary of a deadly crush during last year’s Hajj rituals in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
The tragic Mina incident took place when two large masses of pilgrims converged at a crossroads during the symbolic ceremony of the stoning of Satan in Jamarat.
According to a count by the Associated Press, more than 2,400 people, including at least 460 Iranian pilgrims, lost their lives in the incident on September 24, 2015. Iran had the highest confirmed death toll among foreign nationals in the Mina stampede. Saudi Arabia claims that nearly 770 people had been killed in the incident.
Iran has cancelled the participation of its pilgrims in this year’s Hajj pilgrimage, which started on Saturday, due to Saudi Arabia’s creation of obstacles in the way of Iranians seeking to perform the rituals.
Zarif further said the "unlimited obstinacy, imbecility, bigotry, and wealth of Saudi rulers have turned Al Saud into a ruthless and irrational regime" which has plunged the Middle East and the entire world into the "most deplorable and disastrous" conditions in modern history by creating, nurturing and spreading terrorism.
Regional governments and nations are now targeted by the Saudi regime’s "imprudent spite and malevolence, he added.
The top Iranian diplomat emphasized that "suspicious, filthy, and evil hands" can be seen not only behind the Mina tragedy but in all crises that have plagued sensitive areas in the Middle East, from Bahrain to Yemen and from Iraq to Syria and Lebanon and even during the annual Hajj season in the territories where the Holy Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
These hands have targeted the fate of Muslim nations and unity of the Muslim world in its confrontation with the common danger of Zionism and international terrorism, he added.
Zarif emphasized that the Iranian Foreign Ministry always considers itself as responsible regarding the life, dignity and property of Iranians outside the country and attaches the highest priority to such an Islamic and national undertaking in all of its interactions, consultations and relations with other countries and the international community.
The Iranian foreign minister expressed regret that after the attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran in January, Riyadh used the move as a pretext to block all paths for pursuing the issue of Mina crush with the purpose of evading responsibility vis-à-vis the victims and avoiding apology.
Saudi Arabia gave no response to the Islamic Republic’s initiatives and efforts such as a proposal to set up a fact-finding Islamic committee via the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, he said, adding that Riyadh also refrained from giving a response to voluntary bids by some Muslim countries in the region to investigate the consequences of last year’s bloody Hajj.
Despite all Saudi regime’s acts of obstruction, the Iranian Foreign Ministry would proceed with efforts to restore the rights of the victims of the Mina disaster, Zarif pointed out.
Tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia intensified after the kingdom's execution of prominent Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr in January.
Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties and halted flights to and from Iran on January 3 following attacks on its vacant diplomatic premises in the Iranian capital and the northeastern city of Mashhad by angry people protesting Nimr's execution.